David – founder of We Are Caring. It provides a new way to hire a helper in Singapore: better candidate screening, a smart and fast hiring process, and support along the way once you hired the right person. It is also ethical. They are proud for not charging any placement fee to helpers.
Q1: What do you appreciate yourself in the business mainly for?
The biggest success is to prove the concept. It’s working. Now we need more people to trusts us, more girls. They sign the contract with us, where it is written there is no agency fee, and yet one out of two asks how much does she have to pay aside. The good news is that now we have a facebook group with 1000 girls. They became our ambassadors, helping to spread the word.
Q2: What is the biggest challenge for you now?
Facing demands without having enough human resources. A lot of women call me day and night. We may be able to help them or not, but still managing the flow is quite difficult. If I switch off my phone today, tomorrow morning I will have 40 to 50 girls to answer. Then, there is a cultural component, some people like to dominate the girl. Employers have strong power in here, they can decide whether or not she can look for another job. Next thing is that some of the girls who apply with us, applied already to other agencies. And a lot of these in order to keep track on the girls hold their passport. Last week we tried what happen when we ask the girl to run away. We called the Ministry, they say there is nothing to do. So I put on my though face and I went to the agency to get back the passport. They gave it in. I was quite lucky. There are a lot of really bad cases. Girls are abused in so many ways, I don’t even want to go deeper in that topic.
Q3: What advice do you have for yourself in this situation?
Now we are raising money for a mobile app. Once it’s done, we expect to grow really fast. Right now girls apply through an online form, then we send them emails with information and request to record a short video with their phone or by coming to our office. But some of them have no email or is not able to use it. Often, for them Internet means just facebook. Then, roughly one out of four has not even a single day off from their job to come to us. We try to find ways to smooth the process: if it doesn’t require too much time and energy, we can afford to keep it free of charge for girls.
Would you like to add something else?
Normally the girls have to pay eight months of their salaries to come from the Philippines or other countries to work in Singapore, and an extra 2-3 months every time they change employer. To change the job they need the agreement of those who hire them. They are literally ripped off and for now there is no alternative. What’s very striking is that there is absolutely nothing that prevent others from doing what we do. There are 700 agencies hiring maids, at least one could say: let’s try to make it free for girls and see if it’s working. It didn’t happen. So let’s show them it’s possible.
The questions were asked on our behalf by Anna and Andrea from How to (ex) change the world.
Singapore, 22nd April, 2016