Move over Squid Game. Enter Netflix original series Maid – the heart-wrenching series was Top 10 in Singapore for the entire month of October since its release earlier that month.
Maid is about a single mother, Alex, who takes on a job as a cleaner to get by and feed herself and her daughter after fleeing an abusive relationship. However, she finds that this job isn’t stable nor good for her. Besides being precarious, the job doesn’t pay her well.
The series gives valuable insight into what it’s like to be a cleaner – albeit in the American context – but it is largely based on commonly known yet outdated stereotypes of cleaners or maids. In the Singapore context, working as a cleaner isn’t anywhere close to what is depicted in the series.
Thanks to various measures such as the Progressive Wage Model and the Workfare Income Supplement, cleaners now enjoy higher wages of up to S$3,000 and greater protection than before. There are many cleaners who are proud of their occupation as they earn wages that can support their families.
We’re here to debunk 4 myths about cleaners that aren’t true in Singapore.
Warning: The following story includes spoilers for Maid.
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Myths about cleaners in Singapore
Myth #1: Cleaners live in precarious working conditions.
In the series Maid, one quickly notices that the main character Alex is in a rather precarious employment relationship. She gets jobs that she would not have accepted voluntarily and she can’t choose how long and when she works.
But this isn’t true. As a cleaner with Helpling, our providers can determine how many hours and days they want to work a week. They can even choose to be a part-time cleaner taking on only 1 job a day.
Most full-time cleaners have a pretty fixed schedule with an average of 2 jobs per day. They start the day at around 9am and end at around 6pm with a break in between. For those who wish to work more, they can get 3 jobs a day for a maximum of 3 days per week.
Myth #2: Cleaners are not paid for their travel time.
While it might seem normal to not get paid for travel time, the cleaners do receive an allowance for every working day. This covers their transportation and food expenses.
In Maid, Alex goes to a customer’s house but the customer isn’t home. Her boss doesn’t want to pay her, wasting her petrol and leaving her with no work nor compensation.
If such a situation happens, our cleaners are normally told to go home. But, they still receive the day’s allowance and their salary as long as they have at least completed 1 job for the day.
Myth #3: Cleaners have to fend for themselves.
All cleaners have a dedicated supervisor whom they can turn to if they face any problems at work. They can reject customers if they feel uncomfortable after a cleaning session for example. In the event a customer gets complaints from 3 different cleaners, the customer ends up on the blacklist as well.
On the contrary, Alex has a supervisor that doesn’t appreciate her at all and she has to deal with rude customers herself. She had to do a last-minute move-out cleaning job with no warning of the terrible state that the house was in.
Myth #4: Cleaners get little money for a lot of work.
One striking problem that Alex faces is that she doesn’t get enough money for her work and has financial problems despite having a job.
In reality, a cleaner can get paid as much as SS3,000 a month, plus CPF for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents. This is much higher than the current minimum wage for cleaners, which is now S$1,236, but is set to rise to S$1,312 by July 2022.
This excludes leave benefits, ad-hoc bonuses, and any tips they receive from their customers.
Debunking myths about cleaners in Singapore
Unlike what is depicted in the most part of the series Maid, the reality of life as a cleaner in Singapore looks more like the situation Alex was in towards the end of the series. Working when she has the time, getting paid fair amounts, and a more confident, dignified, and happier human being.
The series ends with Alex heading to attend the college of her dreams with her daughter. This time, she has things all planned out and no longer has to worry about lodging, food, nor her college fees.
As a platform providing cleaning services among other home services, we hope to help more cleaners be like the Alex in the closing scenes of Maid. To be able to chase their dreams and have control over their time, money, and future.
Our aim is to empower our providers, allowing them to have more autonomy and control over various aspects of their lives. Enabling quality living not just for our customers, but also for our providers. We hope this gives you a glimpse of of what it’s like to be a cleaner in Singapore by debunking these myths about cleaners.
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