Singapore employers using police to threaten domestic workers, report says More than 80 percent of police reports made by bosses against their maids do not lead to charges, rights group says.


Singaporean employers are using the justice system as a “tool” to threaten and control domestic workers, with more than 80 percent of police reports made by bosses against their maids not leading to charges, according to a new report.

Employers in the Southeast Asian city-state hold “unprecedented” power over domestic workers, who face disadvantages in the criminal justice system due to their precarious status as work-permit holders, according to the report by the rights group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME).

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Domestic workers accused of a crime are typically prevented from continuing to work and can be barred from future employment in Singapore after receiving a police warning, despite never being convicted of an offense, according to the report.

“Importantly, the findings demonstrate how the police and the criminal justice system are used as a threat, and punitive – and often retaliatory – tool against migrant domestic workers,” HOME said in the report.

The report, which was released last week, based its findings on 100 cases involving migrant domestic workers accused of crimes between 2019 and 2022.

HOME compiled the report in response to the high-profile case of former domestic worker Parti Liyani, who was accused of stealing 30,000 Singaporean dollars ($22,103) worth of items from ex-Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong and his family.

Parti’s 2019 theft conviction was overturned by the High Court in September 2020. In April, Liew’s son Karl was sentenced to two weeks in prison for lying during the domestic worker’s trial.

HOME said the most common accusation against domestic workers featured in the report was theft, most cases of which were “petty in nature”.

In one case, an employer reported their maid to the police for allegedly stealing 10 Singaporean dollars ($7.30)

“Accusations of theft can be made very easily, require little to no proof and do not negatively impact employers (regardless of the outcome), while having disproportionate and potentially disastrous outcomes for migrant domestic workers,” the report said.

Physical abuse was the next most common claim, accounting for 13 per cent of the cases involving migrant domestic workers.

All in all, only 18 percent of reports led to criminal charges. Thirty-six percent resulted in no further action and 43 percent led to a “stern warning”, which authorities can issue at their discretion in lieu of prosecution.

Heavy consequences

Although most complaints do not result in a criminal conviction, domestic workers can suffer heavy consequences from an accusation alone.

HOME said accused maids spend an average of four months at the group’s shelter and that the allegations inflict severe financial and psychological strain on them as well as their families back home.

HOME said helpers can also face “revenge accusations” after they leave their place of employment.

In one case highlighted in the report, a domestic worker, who sought help at a HOME shelter after being refused repatriation for a year, was accused of stealing money when she returned to her former employer to collect her belongings.

The helper was forced to remain in Singapore for an additional nine months pending the outcome of the investigation, which concluded with no further action.

In its report, HOME recommended that domestic workers who cooperate with investigations should be allowed to continue to work and that those issued stern warnings should not be barred from employment in the future.

The group also called for live-out options for domestic workers and greater freedom to change employers.

Workers in Singapore are the world’s fastest when it comes to adopting artificial intelligence skills, according to LinkedIn’s latest Future of Work report.

The report, which drew data from 25 countries, found that Singapore has the highest “diffusion rate” — the share of members adding AI skills to their profiles grew 20 times from January 2016. 

That’s significantly higher than the global average of eight times, LinkedIn told CNBC Make It.

Finland (16x), Ireland (15x), India (14x), and Canada (13x) round out the top five countries with the highest rates of AI skills diffusion, according to the report. 

A.I. will be a big driver but it's not for everybody, JPMorgan says
A.I. will be a big driver but it’s not for everybody, JPMorgan says

Pooja Chhabria, career expert and Asia-Pacific head of editorial at LinkedIn said Singapore has long been a “fertile ground” for AI disruption.

That’s thanks to the country’s “robust digital infrastructure, a strong framework for the protection of intellectual property, and a thriving ecosystem of venture capital firms, angel investors … that provide capital,” she said.

“We have seen rapid growth in AI development and adoption fueled by startups and businesses over the years, in their efforts to carve out new niches or achieve greater competitive advantage.”

Skills ‘potentially augmentable’ by AI

In 2022, the five fastest-growing AI-related skills added to member profiles were all ones “hinting at the emergence of generative AI,” according to LinkedIn. 

That includes skills such as question-answering — which grew a whopping 332% — classification and recommender systems. 

Chatbot ChatGPT sparked a new wave of interest in generative AI (GAI) technologies in the past year, and Big Tech firms like Google and Microsoft have since looked to infuse AI across their business.

LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft, launched in May features that allow members to create AI-generated recruiter messages, job descriptions, and user profiles. 

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Microsoft releases another wave of A.I. features as race with Google heats up

However, generative AI’s ability to create text, images, and other content in response to human input — has sparked new fears of jobs being replaced by tech.

A Goldman Sachs report found 300 million jobs around the world could be affected by AI and automation, such as office and administrative support roles.

LinkedIn — which analyzed some of the most common occupations on the platform — found that 45% of teachers’ skills, for example, are “potentially augmentable” by generative AI.

“New GAI tools present an opportunity to potentially lighten workloads and help professionals, like teachers, focus on the most important parts of their job,” LinkedIn wrote. 

AI will certainly change the way that many of us do our jobs, and the time we spend on tasks that potentially can be aided by generative AI.
Pooja Chhabria

According to the report, teaching skills that could be augmentable include lesson planning, curriculum development, literacy and tutoring. 

However, 53% of teachers’ skills still need to be performed by human beings, such as classroom management, elementary education, and special education.  

Share of skills potentially augmentable by generative AI 

  • Software engineer: 96% 
  • Customer service rep: 76%
  • Cashier: 59% 
  • Salesperson: 59% 
  • Teacher: 45% 
  • Event manager: 39% 

Just 3% of software engineers’ skills need to be performed by humans.

“AI will certainly change the way that many of us do our jobs, and the time we spend on tasks that potentially can be aided by generative AI,” Chhabria added. 

“As a result, people skills … like creative thinking, leadership and communication, and ensuring ethical outcomes – are also becoming increasingly important.”

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Harvard professor on A.I. job risks: We need to upskill ad update business models

She added that one of the key areas where software engineers can use their people skills is “communicating more effectively with business and non-technical audiences.”

According to LinkedIn, jobs with the smallest share of potentially augmentable skills include oil field operator (1%), environmental health safety specialist (3%), nurse (6%), and medical doctor (7%). 

As AI begins to automate many areas of the workforce, soft skills are becoming increasingly important, LinkedIn said. 

In the U.S. for example, the fastest-growing in-demand skills since November 2022 are flexibility, professional ethics, social perceptiveness and self-management, said the report. 

Similarly, Microsoft’s 2023 Work Trend Index report found that the three top skills that leaders believe are essential are analytical judgment, flexibility, and emotional intelligence.

Everything you need to know about emotional intelligence
Everything you need to know about emotional intelligence

“The human is always in control and … with a generated AI response, you have a moment of, ‘Do I want to keep this content? Do I want to modify it? Do I want to discard it?’” Colette Stallbaumer, the general manager for Microsoft 365 and “future of work” told CNBC Make It in May. 

“You still have to use those judgment skills when thinking about when to use AI and making those calls — that’s really where the human agency comes into it.”

Emotional intelligence is also crucial in helping to “determine when to leverage an AI capacity instead of a human capability,” Microsoft added.

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