SingaporeMotherhood | Parenting

February 2022

Hiring a Domestic Helper? Be Aware of these Hidden Costs

With more dual-income families on the rise, hiring a domestic helper for the household is sometimes necessary. Common reasons include household chores, looking after your children when you’re at work, or caring for an elderly family member.

Before hiring a foreign domestic helper, it is important to know the costs involved in the process. Hiring a helper is a weighty commitment — there’s usually a two-year contract, for one thing. Furthermore, domestic helpers usually live with the family, which is a major change to adapt to.

Recurring Costs

Some commonly known one-time costs for hiring a domestic helper would be the work permit application and issuance, the pre-employment medical examination for the helper, and transport to Singapore. However, there are other recurring costs involved in hiring a helper, and also other one-time costs besides those mentioned above.

(See also: Babysitting Services in Singapore – Now You Can Finally Go on That Date!)

Image: Homage

Monthly Salary

When you hire a domestic helper, salary is an expense you have to pay to your helper on a monthly basis. A factor affecting a domestic helper’s salary would be the country which they come from. Majority of the domestic helpers in Singapore come from countries such as India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines. Helpers from different countries have different minimum wages. For example:

  • Myanmar – $450
  • Cambodia – $500
  • Sri Lanka – $500
  • Indonesia – $550
  • Philippines – $570

Domestic helpers from the Philippines have higher minimum monthly salaries due to their competency in English. This makes it easier for them to communicate with their employers and others in the family. The average salary Singaporean employers are paying their helpers is around $597, which is above the average rate compared to other employers around the world.

Another factor affecting a domestic helper’s salary will be their length of working experience. The more experienced they are, the higher their expected salary. MSIG gives a general guideline on monthly salary ranges for the number of years of experience:

  • One year of experience: $500 to $620 monthly salary
  • Two to five years of experience: $650
  • More than six years of experience: $700 to $850

Foreign Worker Levy

To regulate the number of foreign workers in Singapore, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has implemented a foreign worker levy. This is an additional sum of money paid per worker employed. With domestic workers, this levy is applicable as well, and collected on a monthly basis.

According to MOM, the current levy rate for a household’s first foreign domestic helper stands at $300 per month. The levy rate will increase to $450 a month for every additional helper. However, if the household qualifies for levy concession, the monthly foreign domestic helper levy will be capped at $60 each.

Image: Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

To qualify for levy concession, the household will need to fulfill any of these conditions:

Young child in the family – Your child must be living in the same household, be below 16 years old, and hold Singapore citizenship to be eligible for this levy.

Elderly person in the family – If there is an elderly person above 67 years old who is a Singaporean citizen, the concession is applicable.

Person with disabilities (PWD) in the family – The PWD must be medically certified by a Singapore-registered doctor to require help with at least one activity of daily living (ADL), such as showering, feeding, dressing, or toileting.

(See also: Income Tax Reliefs for Parents – Are You Maximising Your Tax Savings?)

The levy concession for one helper is granted based on one eligible person in the household. It is capped at two helpers per household. The levy concession will automatically start if the individual applying for a domestic helper is more than 67 years old, or has a young child below 16 years old. If the concession applies to family members who meet the criteria, apply for the levy concession on MOM’s website.

Remember to pay the levy on time each month. Otherwise, there is a late payment penalty of 2% or $20, whichever is higher. Your total late payment penalty will be capped at 30% of the outstanding levy. Furthermore, your domestic helper’s work permit will be revoked. You will also not be able to renew or apply for a new work permit. Legal action may be taken to recover the unpaid levy as well.

Daily Living Expenses

Having a domestic helper means having an additional adult around the house to feed. It is important to factor in the additional utilities, groceries, and public transportation costs incurred by the domestic helper as she goes about her day-to-day work and lives with your family. Estimated extra expenses could add up to at least $200 per month, according to Dollars and Sense.

Other additional living expenses which may incur would be expenses from eating out together with the family, and also for family outings. Some employers also pay for their helpers’ telecommunication bills and leisure activities that their helpers take part in as well.

Medical Examinations

It is compulsory for all domestic helpers to undergo medical examinations on a half-yearly basis. MOM will send a reminder via email or letter to send your helper to a nearby clinic to do so. Depending on the clinic, a medical examination costs around $30 to $40 per visit. If you wish to extend her contract after two years, she will need to undergo an HIV and tuberculosis test. These usually cost $30 and $40 respectively.

(See also: How to Locate the Nearest Children’s Clinics in Singapore Open on Sundays, Public Holidays and 24 Hours)

One-Time Costs

Choosing to hire a domestic helper through a maid agency will incur greater costs than hiring a helper yourself. According to Helper’s Choice, you could save almost $2,500 if you choose to hire a domestic helper independently. However, the convenience, expertise, and guarantee offered by a maid agency can be worth it. For starters, you will not need to source for your own helper. Instead, the agency will have a selection of domestic helpers for you to pick from.

Maid Agency Fees

The agency will also help to settle the related administration processes. These include work permit application, insurance, medical screening, and flight arrangements. Maid agency fees are not fixed — they can range from $100 to $2,000. This depends on the agency you engage and the services they provide.


Maid Loan/Placement Fee

Most maid agencies have a component called a placement fee, sometimes referred to as a maid loan. The employer pays this to the agency to cover the domestic helper’s cost of working in Singapore. You can consider it a loan your maid incurs for her to be able to work here. While you may have to pay this up front, it is not part of your actual expenses. You will be reimbursed through deductions made from the domestic helper’s salary in the initial months of employment.

Do take note that some maid agencies charge a placement fee higher than two months of the helper’s salary — this is not allowed.

Work Permit Costs

Work permit costs include application and issuance, which cost $35 each and $70 in total. Do consider that you will have to renew your domestic helper’s work permit if it has expired.


If you employ a domestic helper through an agency, the agency fees likely cover the insurance costs. However, if you are self-employing a domestic helper, you will need to provide insurance coverage for her. This could range from $225 to $330, for 26 months’ coverage (equivalent to a domestic helper’s usual two-year contract).

(See also: Retirement 101 for Parents in Singapore)

Settling-in Programme Fees

Any first-time domestic helper working in Singapore must undergo a settling-in programme. This costs $75. Domestic helpers who previously worked in Singapore, or are transferring from another employer are exempt. The settling-in programme will help your domestic helper to adjust to life in Singapore. It also provides an idea of what working in Singapore is like. Topics include an introduction to Singapore, conditions of employment, and home safety.

Employer’s Orientation Programme

First-time domestic helper employers need to attend the Employers’ Orientation Programme as a requirement from MOM. This programme will help new employers understand their role and responsibilities. It costs $35 to attend this programme.

Image: mentatdgt from Pexels

Airfare to Singapore

If you are not hiring a domestic helper via a maid agency, you will have to pay for your domestic helper’s air ticket to Singapore. This is usually around $400.

Security Bond/Deposit

If you hire a domestic helper through a maid agency, you have to pay a security deposit of about $5,000 to MOM. This acts as a safeguard, in case:

  • The employer breaches the contract with the domestic helper, or goes against MOM regulations
  • The domestic helper disappears
  • The domestic helper gets pregnant and the employer does not send the helper back to her home country

This security bond can be paid in the form of an Insurance Guarantee, so it is not always necessary to pay in cash up front.

Other Costs

There are other costs which may occur as well, especially in this pandemic, and also if you require additional help on your domestic helper’s day off.

(See also: Keep COVID-19 at Bay with 7 Essential Personal and Household Items)

Additional COVID-19 Related Costs

With COVID-19, there are additional costs when bringing in a domestic helper from her home country. Firstly, MOM needs to give entry approval. Also, the employer has to ensure the helper takes valid COVID-19 swab tests prior to her flight here. The employer may also need to make arrangements for a Stay-Home-Notice (SHN) period.

The employer also has to purchase additional medical insurance for the domestic helper to cover any COVID-19 related medical expense if required, with coverage of at least $10,000. All these costs add up even if you are not using an agency (e.g. SHN dedicated facilities cost about $1,300 to $2,000 for 14-day SHN while COVID-19 tests cost about S$125 to S$160 each).

If you are using an agency, expect an increase in agency service fees to reflect the additional work needed to coordinate these new requirements. Airfare costs may also have risen due to limited flight availability, causing flight tickets to be more expensive.

Do check MOM guidelines and regulations for changes as the COVID-19 situation unfolds.

Compensation for Working on Days Off

Domestic helpers are normally entitled to a day off each week. If the domestic helper is agreeable, there are situations where the employer may request she works on her off-day. In those cases, you must compensate your helper with a day’s worth of salary. Do note that it is now mandatory to give your domestic helper at least one day off a month.

Should I Hire a Domestic Helper in Singapore?

Bearing all these costs in mind, think carefully before hiring a domestic helper — what is your purpose for hiring one? Consider if hiring a part-time caregiver for your kiddos (or elderly) or part-time cleaner to do household chores may be a more practical option. Or not. Ever wondered how much it costs to hire a foreign domestic worker or helper in Singapore? Now you know.

(See also: Top Tips for Expats Moving to Singapore with Kids)

This article first appeared on Homage, an award-winning personal care solution that provides on-demand holistic home and community-based caregiving and medical services to seniors and adults, allowing them to age and recover with grace, control, and dignity.

Featured image: RODNAE Productions from Pexels

All content from this article, including images, cannot be reproduced without credits or written permission from SingaporeMotherhood.

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Telegram for the latest article and promotion updates.

Hiring a Domestic Helper? Be Aware of these Hidden Costs