Dreams and Nightmares of Singapore’s Hired Help
Asia’s gleaming city-state is a beacon of opportunity for impoverished women in next-door Indonesia, but life here can just as quickly become a dark hole of disappointment and despair.
Female workers from Indonesia are one of the largest labor diasporas in the world — and one of the most exploited. According to the International Labour Organization, eighty percent of Indonesia’s four million overseas domestic workers endure “underpayment, forced labor, human trafficking and violence.” Often their problems begin at home. Due to poor legislation and weak governmental oversight, a whole industry has developed involving unscrupulous brokers and exploitative training centers. Migrants end up paying exorbitant fees in order to work abroad — and often take months, if not years, to pay off their debts. Conditions at these training centers are often substandard. One woman, who asked not to reveal her name, recalls sleeping in a small room with twenty others during the training process. “There were no mattresses and no pillows” she says, “so we had to sleep on the ground. I stayed there for two months, but other women were there for five months or longer.” She also recalls sh…
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