Moneylenders targeting maids
Concerns have been raised about licensed moneylenders targeting foreign maids.
A check revealed that some have dedicated services aimed at foreign domestic workers (FDWs), such as web pages touting "easy approval loans", with pictures of smiling maids next to a pile of money. Others have LED boards flashing promotions aimed at maids.
Mr William Chew, the executive director of the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Skills Training (Fast), said: "It doesn't make sense that maids are allowed to take loans from licensed moneylenders.
"What kind of collateral are they going to put up? And how do you expect them to service such a loan?"
Earlier this month, the police specifically mentioned FDWs in warning of the dangers of borrowing from unlicensed moneylenders.
These loan sharks tap on technology to hit potential victims by offering easy loans on WhatsApp and Facebook.
A Ministry of Manpower (MOM) spokesman said MOM has been educating FDWs against borrowing from unlicensed moneylenders in the FDW Settling-In Programme since August 2017.
Employers have also been notified to warn their maids about the dangers of borrowing from and/or assisting unlicensed moneylenders."
Concerned by this trend, Mr Chew, 61, approached the Criminal Investigation Department to educate maids about the dangers in a talk last month that was attended by about 600 maids.
He told The New Paper: "Some maids are chain-borrowing - borrowing from one moneylender to service another - and have to get guarantors, and so they get other maids involved, leading to more maids getting caught in the cycle."
Ms Stephanie Chok, case manager and head of research at Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), said it has seen about 20 cases this year of maids who borrowed from both licensed and unlicensed moneylenders.
She said: "It should be compulsory for legal moneylenders to obtain the consent of employers of domestic workers."
Chua Chu Kang MP Yee Chia Hsing, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, said: "I think awareness is the first thing we can do before we consider legislation. FDWs should be protected; maybe the authorities can consider regulation.
"But we have to be careful not to over-regulate, which may have the unintended effect of affecting businesses and also closing off credit to those who may genuinely need it."