Cost of Hiring a Domestic Helper in Singapore (2021)
Are you thinking of hiring a maid in Singapore? The extra pair of hands can really help to take the load off, especially if you’re a working adult with young children or elderly parents to look after. Hiring a live-in foreign domestic worker (FDW) to help with the household chores also means you get more quality time with your family.
While the benefits are clear, you should evaluate if you can afford the cost of a maid in Singapore before you proceed to engage one. The cost of hiring a maid in Singapore goes beyond her monthly salary and involves other fees and responsibilities. It can be a huge financial commitment as well.
Take some time to find out your responsibilities as an employer, and how much it really costs to hire a maid in Singapore before you make this decision.
One-off costs to hiring domestic help
The first thing to consider is whether you want to hire a new domestic helper from overseas, or locally through a maid transfer. Costs will vary accordingly, depending on which option you choose, and whether you engage the services of a maid agency.
For instance, most people find it easier to hire a new maid through a maid agency. While more convenient, this comes at a premium. Comparatively, you’ll save more when you opt for a maid transfer.
Maid transfers refers to engaging FDWs who are already in Singapore, and are looking to transfer to a new employer. While maid agencies do offer maid transfers as well, most people opt to hire transfer maids through recommendations from their friends and family instead.
Depending on which option you choose, here’s an overview of the up-front fees involved:
|Types of Fees||Hiring new maids||Maid transfers|
|Agency fee||$1,000 - $3,000||None|
|Work permit application||$35|
|Work permit issuance||$35|
|Settling-in programme (for new helpers)||$75||None|
|Security bond required by MOM||$5,000|
|Other placement fees and bonds||Placement fee for Indonesian FDWs: $2,000 - $3,000
Performance bond for Filipino FDWs: $2,000 - $7,000
|Costs related to COVID-19||
Total: $1,367 to $1,867
Income Domestic Helper Insurance
|$324.30 (Standard Plan, 26 months)||$324.30 (Standard Plan, 26 months)|
|Total One-Off Fees, inclusive of placement fees and bonds||$10,272 - $17,272||$7,330 - $12,330|
Maid Agency Fees in Singapore
When you engage a maid agency, you’re paying for their expertise and network. Maid agency fees in Singapore tend to be hefty as they include a gamut of services like screening potential FDWs, matching you with FDWs who meet your requirements, work permit application fees, and expenses such as airfare, insurance and accommodation.
The convenience of engaging an agency can be particularly useful for someone who’s hiring a domestic helper for the first time, but this comes at a price that ranges between $1,000 to $3,000. If you prefer to save on this fee, opt for direct hires instead. This includes hiring a maid through word of mouth recommendations, or through online FDW matching platforms that charge a small fraction of what maid agencies cost.
Work permit application or renewal
Applying or renewing maid permits can be done by the maid agency or by yourself. Either way, it’ll cost $35 when you submit the application and another $35 when the pass is issued.
If your domestic helper is working in Singapore for the first time, she needs to go through a compulsory Settling-in Programme (SIP). This will help her adjust to life in Singapore and give her an idea of what working here will be like. Topics include an introduction to Singapore, conditions of employment, and home safety.
The SIP costs $75 and will have to be paid by you. If your domestic helper is coming from another household in Singapore, there is no need for her to go through the SIP.
As an employer, you need to pay the MOM a security bond of $5,000 for every domestic helper you hire, except for Malaysian helpers. This bond is your guarantee to the government that you and your helper will not be breaking any laws or work permit conditions.
The bond amount will be returned to you once your helper’s work permit has been cancelled and has returned home, as long as the security bond conditions are not breached.
You can handle the bond yourself using a banker’s guarantee, but it can also come in the form of an insurance guarantee from your domestic helper insurance plan.
Other placement fees and bonds
Depending on the country your helper comes from, you may have to pay additional placement fees or bonds. This is separate from the security bond paid to MOM.
From July 2021, there is a placement fee of up to $3,000 to be paid upfront if you’re hiring FDWs from Indonesia. Meanwhile, those hiring FDWs from the Philippines will have to pay a performance bond to the Philippines Overseas Labour Office (P.O.L.O). This costs $2,000 if you’re hiring your helper through accredited maid agencies. For all other agencies and direct hires, the bond amount is $7,000.
Similar to the security bond to MOM, some insurers also offer a letter of guarantee for these additional bonds.
You are required by MOM to provide your domestic helper with personal accident and medical insurance with COVID-19 cover. Your helper must be covered for at least $15,000 a year for inpatient care and day surgery, and a sum assured of at least $60,000 per year in case of unexpected events that cause permanent injury or death. In addition, the medical insurance must cover at least $10,000 for medical expenses if your helper develops COVID-19 symptoms or tests positive within 14 days of arrival in Singapore and also covers her on work pass in-principle approvals.
Income’s Domestic Helper Insurance provides these basic benefits, plus additional protection. For instance, it includes an additional 14-day COVID-19 cover of up to $30,000 that covers the treatment of your helper if she develops COVID-19 symptoms within two weeks of her arrival in Singapore.
The plan also gives you the flexibility to top up hospital and surgical expenses and claim compensation if your helper is hospitalised. Income is also the first insurer to provide a Letter of Guarantee (LOG) for your helper’s hospital admission^ so that you truly have peace of mind, without having to provide an upfront deposit out of your pocket.
You can also add on an MOM security bond protector to the plan, which limits your liability to just $250 instead of $5,000, provided you don’t breach the bond.
The Standard Plan costs $324.30 for 26-month coverage.
COVID-19 Safety Measures
If you are bringing in a new helper from overseas during this period, you will have to factor in additional costs due to safe management measures. Upon entry to Singapore, your helper has to take an ART test at the checkpoint and a PCR test the following day.
Before she can start her employment at your household, she has to serve a 14-day SHN at an SHN dedicated facility. This will cost $1,500, or $1,000 if she shares a room. However, note that room sharing comes with greater risks and your helper’s SHN may be extended if she or her roommate tests positive for COVID-19.
On the last day of her SHN, she’ll have to take another PCR test. Each PCR test costs around $125 while the ART costs $67.
There may also be other fees involved before your helper leaves her home country. For instance, your helper will have to take a COVID-19 PCR test within 48 or 72 hours before departure, depending on whether she’s from Indonesia or the Philippines. The test has to be conducted at an internationally accredited or recognised medical facility and your helper has to bring a copy of her test result in English.
Note that travellers from Myanmar, India and Sri Lanka are currently disallowed entry into Singapore. Visit ICA’s SafeTravel website for the latest updates on travel and health control measures.
Maid salary, levy and other monthly costs
After taking care of the one-off costs, ensure that you have enough reserves in your budget to pay off the monthly expenses. This includes recurring costs like your helper’s salary, living expenses, and maid levy.
Here’s an estimate of what to expect:
|Type of Expense||Cost|
|Salary||$450 - $700|
|Maid Levy||$300, or $60 with levy concession|
|Working on rest days||$15 to $23 per off day|
|Total Monthly Expenses||S$1,035 - S$1,293 (without levy concession);
S$795 - S$1,053 (with levy concession)
Maid Salaries in Singapore
How much is the maid salary in Singapore? Because Singapore does not have a minimum wage set for FDWs, deciding on how much your helper should be paid can be a little tricky.
One guideline you can follow is the minimum wage set by your helper’s home country:
|Country||Minimum Monthly Salary|
The other way of approaching this is to use what other people are paying as a benchmark. According to FDW matching portal HelperChoice, the average maid salary in Singapore is $597. However, this depends on which country your helper is from as well as the amount of experience that they have.
Expect to pay more for FDWs who have many years of experience under their belt, or specialised knowledge in taking care of babies, people with disabilities, or the elderly. According to Anisya, an open exchange platform for FDWs and potential employers, the median salary for a maid who has more than 4 years of experience hovers around $700.
If you need a helper urgently, it’s also important to ensure that the salary you’re offering is competitive. Due to travel restrictions brought about by the pandemic, FDWs are in high demand and many potential employers are offering a higher maid salary in Singapore. You can use this maid salary comparison tool by Anisya to determine how your offer compares to that of other employers.
Offering a fair salary is necessary for securing your helper’s loyalty and her motivation. Whatever salary you both agree upon, you must declare this to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and pay her this amount every month. It’s illegal to deduct her salary under a private agreement, and you will need to obtain her written consent and inform MOM of any salary changes.
FDW Levy Concessions
In addition to your helper’s salary, you also need to pay a monthly maid levy to MOM. If your purpose of hiring a helper is to care for young children or the elderly in your household, you might be eligible for a maid levy subsidy, which reduces the maid levy amount to the concessionary rate of $60.
Maid levy concessions will be given to you if you live with:
Young child below 16 years old
Elderly person who is at least 67 years old
Person with disabilities (PWD) – The PWD must be certified by a Singapore-registered doctor to require help with at least 1 activity of daily living (ADL), such as showering, feeding, dressing or toileting.
The maid levy concession will be applied automatically if your child is below 16 years old, or if you or your spouse is at least 67 years old. If not, you can apply for the maid levy subsidy online or with the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC).
Without the subsidy, the monthly maid levy will cost $300 a month for your first FDW and $450 for each subsequent FDW that you employ.
Make sure you pay your monthly levy on time, or risk facing these penalties:
Late payment penalty of 2% per month or $20, whichever is higher;
Revocation of your FDW’s Work Permit;
A ban from applying for or issuing a new Work Permit;
A ban from renewing an existing Work Permit; or
Legal action to recover the unpaid levy
Hiring a domestic helper also means being responsible for supporting her. Other than paying her salary, you will have to foot the bill for her living expenses.
Her meals are the first thing you should account for. Your helper deserves to eat as well as anyone else in your household, so you will have to budget a similar amount as you do for each person living at home. Public transportation and her mobile phone credit are other expenses you need to cover, especially if you expect her to run errands like buying groceries and fetching the kids to and from school.
Finally, having a domestic helper means adding one more adult to your household, which will increase your utility expenses. You also need to make room for her in the house, and give her a space where she can have some privacy.
Here’s a rough estimate of how much you should set aside for your helper’s living expenses:
|Living Expense||Monthly Cost|
|Food and utilities||$150|
|Public transport for daily errands||$100|
Working on rest days
Your helper is entitled to one rest day per week. However, there are times when your FDW may request to forego her rest days in lieu of compensation instead. If the both of you agree on this, you’ll need to pay her at least one day’s salary for each rest day that she spends working.
Note that this additional payment should not be counted as part of her basic monthly salary. In addition, all employers will have to provide their helpers with at least one rest day per month that cannot be compensated away from end-2022.
Hiring a maid can be costly
Domestic helpers can be a great help to the household but they also come with an added responsibility. Find out if you’re ready for this additional financial commitment by acquainting yourself with the cost of hiring a maid in Singapore.
Besides the upfront fees, do you have enough in your budget to take on the monthly expenses involved? Keep in mind that hiring a helper is a decision that you’ll need to commit to for at least a year or two.
As you’re mostly responsible for your helper’s quality of life in Singapore, you should also be prepared to pay for other miscellaneous expenses along the way such as medical bills or even travel expenses if you’re bringing her on your family trip.
These expenses can all add up. If you find that the cost of hiring a maid is beyond your budget, or unsustainable over a prolonged period, consider other alternatives such as childcare, part-time elder care or hiring a part-time cleaner instead.
However, if hiring an FDW still makes the most sense for your household, make sure you’re well-equipped with a sufficient budget and Income’s Domestic Helper Insurance for a greater peace of mind.
^ This Letter of Guarantee is only applicable if your domestic helper is hospitalised at a Singapore government restructured hospital, and is capped at a maximum limit of $10,000 per admission. Subject to individual hospital guidelines. Other terms and conditions apply.
This article is meant purely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as financial advice. The precise terms, conditions and exclusions of any Income products mentioned are specified in their respective policy contracts. For customised advice to suit your specific needs, consult an Income insurance advisor.
This advertisement has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.