04 July 2014

Buy a discount maid at Singapore's malls

Buy a discount maid at Singapore's malls (Al Jazeera, 27 June 2014)

Excerpts:
Go to the Bukit Timah Shopping Centre, a 1970s mall in central Singapore, and you will find five levels of brightly lit rooms and galleries called "Homekeeper" and "Budget Maid". Inside these rooms, dozens of women sit in a listless, artificial silence. They nod respectfully as you enter, and some watch closely as you speak to staff. You might take one home with you - for two years, or longer. The women, domestic workers, come from Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar. They sit beneath garish signs and posters, testifying to their friendliness and industriousness, or advertising "super promo" rates and "special discounts".

Some "maid agencies", as they're known locally, display women at work. Along one aisle, domestic workers push each other around in wheelchairs, as though they're taking care of the elderly. In another gallery, a woman cradles a baby doll and pretends to change its diapers. Others stand in mock living rooms ironing the same shirt, or making the same bed - scenes enacted elsewhere in Singapore at malls like Katong Shopping Centre on Mountbatten Road.

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