Migrant Domestic Workers in Singapore contribute almost 2.4% of GDP but face challenges in managing their finances
- Latest report commissioned by Experian and Enrich interviewed 300 Migrant Domestic Workers (MDWs) across Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong
- MDWs in Singapore contributed SGD$11.1 billion (USD$8.2 billion) in 2018 to Singapore’s economy; 2.4% of the GDP
- Almost half of MDWs in Singapore are unbanked, but new laws implemented by Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower likely to drive financial inclusion among MDWs
SINGAPORE, 13 June 2019 - Experian, the world leader in information services, today shared Singapore findings of a Market Intelligence Report on Migrant Domestic Workers (MDWs). The Value of Care: Key Contributions of Migrant Domestic Workers to Economic Growth and Family Well-being in Asia study revealed that 250,000 MDWs contributed a total of SGD$11.1 billion (USD$8.2 billion) in 2018 to the Singapore economy, which amounts to 2.4% of Singapore’s GDP. However, MDWs face challenges in managing their finances with almost half (49%) not having access to a bank account.
Commissioned by Experian in partnership with charity organisation Enrich, the Frost & Sullivan report surveyed 300 MDWs in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore in late 2018 on their personal finance habits and contributions to the economy.
The report highlighted a positive economic impact generated by MDWs - amounting to a total of SGD$11.1 billion (USD$8.2 billion). This contribution is a combination of the MDWs’ direct personal expenditure and indirectly from real value of “paid” domestic work and value of freed-up time. For example, freeing mothers to participate in the labour force added SGD$3.5 billion (USD$2.6 billion) to the Singapore economy. This includes savings of SGD$675 (USD$500) in monthly childcare costs per Singapore household.
Singapore based MDWs play a significant role in the economy in their countries of origin through remittances, which helped increase household incomes. This amounted to a total of SGD$1.3 billion (USD$931.5 million) in remittance; SGD$378.4 million to Philippines (USD$280.3 million), SGD$570.0 million to Indonesia (USD$422.2 million) and SGD$309.2 million to other markets (USD$229.0 million).
“Unfortunately, the hard work and dedication of migrant domestic workers tend to be understated. This report highlighted that several MDWs face difficulties due to their lack of financial knowledge, despite their significant contribution to the economies of Singapore as well as their home countries. That is why we are excited to collaborate with our NGO partner Aidha in Singapore to empower MDWs. We aspire to equip migrant domestic workers with access to readily available financial services and empower them with financial education. I am proud to share that through this programme we have seen an increase in monthly savings and an increase in business ownership for the MDWs,” said Dev Dhiman, Managing Director, Southeast Asia & Emerging Markets, Experian.
While the economic contribution of MDWs is apparent, the report found that many are financially excluded. Only 51% of MDWs working in Singapore have a bank account due to barriers to the account opening process. For example, MDWs require employment documents, employers’ presence, and minimum accounts to open a bank account. This results in MDWs keeping their salaries in cash or some of them entrust their employers to safekeep salaries. However, this is changing as the Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower has recently prohibited employers from safekeeping their MDWs’ money starting from 1 January 2019, and offering free bank accounts with no minimum from mid-2018 onwards.
At the same time, according to the report, one-third of Singapore (34%) MDWs are in debt. The high level of debt is mainly attributed to existing loans taken when dealing with emergencies. These loans are provided to MDWs by their families, friends or employers, instead of relying on formal financial services.
Experian’s collaboration with Aidha, a women’s charity organisation in Singapore, since 2016 helps migrant domestic workers achieve economic independence through financial education. Together, Aidha and Experian, want to address the financial difficulties MDWs face and help them resolve their challenges. To date, Experian’s support has assisted Aidha to provide training to over 2,000 students since 2016 with impact data showing significant increases in savings, asset ownership and business ownership. In 2019, Experian will work with Aidha to enhance the digital and online aspects of the financial literacy programme, with the aim of enabling 1,000 more women outside of Singapore, including their alumni who have returned home.
“We welcome this new research highlighting the significant economic contribution of migrant domestic workers to Singapore’s economy. The report also highlights how financial inclusion remains a challenge, underlining the importance of efforts by Experian, Aidha and others to help migrant domestic workers and their families also gain lasting benefit from their labour and sacrifice,” said Jacqueline Loh, Chief Executive Officer, Aidha.
Facilitating equal opportunities for financial inclusion across genders and socio-economic groups is key to developing thriving economies and communities in Asia Pacific (APAC). Experian is driving various social innovation programmes to empower the region’s unbanked, underbanked and those who lack financial literacy through greater access to financial education and services that better meet their needs. To date, the company has supported over 2,000 female foreign domestic workers on money management, computer literacy, leadership and entrepreneurship in Singapore, educated 30,000 low income individuals in India, especially women, on digital financial services; and worked with 2,000 women in Vietnam to improve financial education levels and daily earnings.
 Note: USD$1 = SGD$1.35 as of 27 February 2019 (Source: www.oanda.com)
 Other MDWs interviewed came from Thailand, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia
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