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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 March 2006, 17:38 GMT
Singapore rejects maids' day off
Girls waiting outside a Maids agency in a shopping mall in Singapore
The maids usually come from other Asian countries
The authorities in Singapore have rejected calls for foreign maids to be given a mandatory day off each week.

Prescribing minimum terms and conditions for the maids would inconvenience many households, a manpower ministry official said.

Human rights groups have long expressed concern over the way many foreign maids are treated in Singapore.

The 150,000 foreign maids employed in the country mostly come from Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

About one in six families in Singapore employs a foreign maid.

Hawazi Daipi, senior parliamentary secretary to the Ministry of Manpower, told Singapore's parliament that specifying a compulsory day off for the maids would lead to "rigidities".

"For example, some households have elderly or infirm members with special needs who require constant attention, and may find it difficult to release the domestic worker for a prescribed period every week," he said.

But Mr Daipi stressed that maids nevertheless had to be given "adequate rest", and employees who did not ensure this was the case could be fined up to 5,000 Singapore dollars (US$3,066) and jailed for up to six months.

Overwork was just one of the abuses suffered by foreign maids in Singapore as highlighted by US rights group Human Rights Watch in a report in December.

The report also alleged that the maids were frequently denied food, pay and social contact, as well as suffering physical abuse.

Singapore's government said the report was grossly exaggerated.

In Hong Kong, where an even larger number of maids work, they are granted one day off every week and a day off on public holidays.

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