Fewer Indonesian maids in Singapore running away

More feeling motivated to stay with changes to salary rules

Indonesian maids watching television at the Indonesian Embassy's shelterfor runaway maids. Most of the maids in the shelter today are there not so much by choice but because they are owed salaries by their employers, or are involved in police cases involving matters such as abuse. -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

INDONESIAN Embassy counsellor Sukmo Yuwono cannot help but grin when he sees the rows of empty beds in the embassy's shelter for runaway maids.

For the first time in years, the shelter, which has space for about 150 women, is not full. The reason, says Mr Sukmo, is pay.

In the past, maids got as little $10 a month during the first year of work - their salaries cut to repay employers who had to shell out over $3,000 to cover fees that the maids owed agents in Indonesian and Singapore.

The Indonesian government made changes to this practice last year, and maids now get at least $170 a month while paying off their loans. They take bank loans instead of getting employers to make an upfront payment, and can clear their debt within eight months.