On one afternoon in Dec 2012, I was at the office of Khin Khin Employment Agency. A thin fair lady in her late 20s came into the office to ask her to find an employer after working 6 months with the present employer who had told her that her services would end on Dec 15, 2012.
"Why do you want to spend more money in agency fees when you have a job now. You just put back $500 into your POSB account, apologise to your employer and complete your S pass contract," Khin Khin said loudly. "You should not have taken out the money as your boss had told you not to."
I was surprised that she could be sacked just for this $500. "Can you find the $500 to put back into the account?" I asked. "How much agency fee did you pay to get this job?" She said she had the money and had paid $4,500 agency fee.
"How much are you getting?" I asked. She said she got a good pay but she could not tolerate being scolded by her boss and colleagues.
"How many days off per month do you get?" I asked.
"4 days off," she said.
"So you have a good working condition," Khin Khin and I said. But there must be more to it than the $500 disobedience. I tried to help her by asking for her boss phone number since Khin Khin might not have the patience or ability to salvage this job loss situation with a Singapore employer.
The girl did not have the phone number. So I surfed the internet, got the company name and phoned the mobile number displayed. It was her boss. "Who are you?" she asked me. "I am Dr Sing from Toa Payoh Vets," I said. "I am just trying to help your employee who said she would put back the $500 into the savings account and I hope she would get her job back."
"It is not the $500 which she already withdrew since the first month of work. Her agent had talked to her and I had waited for 6 months but her work attitude was bad. She swept the dirt under the table and this is 'pantung' (bad luck) to a Peranakan. She also smashed the curry puffs. I have given her Dec 15 as her last day and she has one month to look for an employer."
So this was an unhappy girl who had her first job in Singapore. A job so difficult to get nowadays as the Government clamped down on approvals even for employers who have the quota. Just a rejection letter for most employers. And there are so many young Myanmar ladies who are looking for a job in Singapore to support their families and to improve their standard of living. Yet, this unhappy girl showed her tantrums and misconduct.
She nodded her head when I told her that she had swept the dirt under the table and smashed the curry puffs in anger. "You must be from a rich Myanmar family," I said. Spending $4,500 on agency fees and more expenses just to get a job in Singapore cannot be affordable to the average Myanmar girl. "No, I am not", she said. A graduate in Myanmar with a good command of English and good looks may earn US$300-500 per month in a big company. It is just not easy to get a job in Yangon for higher pay. There are 60 million people in Myanmar and competition for jobs must be much more intense unlike the young Singaporean counterparts who can pick and choose their employer.
Poor work attitude afflicts many from the younger generation in their first job when the employment vacancies are high. As for this unhappy girl, I don't see any hope of her getting another job as there will be newer girls with no "leaving the Singapore employer before the end of contract - a red flag for employers" arriving in Khin Khin's office to look for jobs. Many of them can converse in good English and Mandarin, esp. from the Kachin State which is near to China.
P.S. According to one Myanmar lady in her 50s, she said that the Myanmar government stopped the teaching of English in primary schools in 1962. Those who studied English were ridiculed. So, the new generation of Myanmar nationals can't speak English proficiently.