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Singapore to require 1 day off a week for maids
Singapore to require 1 day off a week for maids; rights groups applaud, want more protections
By The Associated Press

SINGAPORE (AP) ' Maids in Singapore will soon get something that many people around the world take for granted: a day off.

Starting next year, maids must receive one day off a week or additional compensation to work that day, Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin told Parliament late Monday.

Worker and human-rights groups praised the change Tuesday, saying it will bring Singapore closer to international labor norms.

"We are happy to note that Singapore is taking a significant step forward toward matching domestic laws and policies with international labor standards," Trina Liang Lin, president of the Singapore Committee for U.N. Women, said in a statement. "It is simply the right thing to do."

Rights groups have urged the government for years to bolster safeguards for the city-state's 206,000 domestic workers, who mostly come from Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and India. Employers are not currently legally required to give domestic workers any days off, while local and non-maid foreign workers are allowed at least one day off a week.

Tan said the new rules will be applied to all maid contracts that begin after Jan. 1, 2013. Rights groups called for the day off to be implemented immediately.

"The Singaporean government's recognition of a weekly rest day as a basic labor right will make the lives of migrant domestic workers better," said Nisha Varia, senior women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. "But this important reform should go into effect this year and apply to all domestic workers and their current contracts."

The change to the labor law must be approved by Parliament. It is expected to pass because the government holds the vast majority of seats.

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