THE drought in Indonesian maids here is at an end.
After months of wrangling between Indonesian recruiters and Singapore maid agents over a new set of fees and rules, a policy on how to recover the cost of recruiting these Indonesian domestic workers has been ironed out.
The first batch of about 20 maids arrived this week.
Maid agents here say recruitment is going at a slower clip than before the policy change, but has picked up in recent weeks.
They are expecting more maids to arrive in the coming weeks.
Indonesian Embassy counsellor Sukmo Yuwono said: 'Our government is serious about implementing the new scheme.
'We will do all we can to make sure things go smoothly.'
Based on the embassy's records, 115 Indonesian maids, including the 20 who have just arrived, had been recruited for Singapore employers and would likely arrive by September, he said.
The supply of Indonesian maids just about dried up after May 1, when Jakarta implemented a change to how the cost of recruiting these maids was to be split. The changes it proposed led to Indonesian recruiters earning less in placement fees.
Upset, the recruiters began putting pressure on Singapore maid agencies to pay them under-the-table money of up to $1,000 - or they would stop sourcing for these maids.
Jakarta then came out strongly to say that it would penalise agents and recruiters who did not follow the new rules.
This new policy, it said, would make the process of hiring an Indonesian maid costlier - but less risky - for employers here.
On average, about 3,000 Indonesian maids were arriving every month to work for families here before the policy change.
Mr Sukmo said he was unable to confirm whether Singapore would be able to go back quickly to attracting that number of maids - but he was confident that a steady stream of domestic workers would be coming in by the end of the year.
There are now some 206,000 maids here, and about half of them are from Indonesia.
Agents here said they were glad that things had turned the corner.
Crislo Employment Agency managing director Cristie Low, who received 12 Indonesian maids this week, said: 'The supply is smaller than before but, so far, I've recruited enough maids to meet my customers' needs.
'I've also confirmed that I'll be receiving Indonesian maids every week from next week.'
Employers said they were feeling the pinch from the agency fee hike but that, overall, the new system was a good one.
Senior sales engineer Martin Chan, 37, whose Indonesian maid arrived earlier this week, said: 'I think the maids will be more responsible because they are the ones who will have to pay back their loans, not their employers.'
Indonesian maid Khoirunnisa, who goes by only one name, arrived here this week from her native Central Java.
The 23-year-old, who is working in Singapore for the first time, said: 'I am happy because I have a lower placement fee to pay back. This means I will be able to start sending money back to my family sooner.'