Before COVID-19 hit Brunei’s shores, it cost around BND2,000 to hire a foreign domestic helper. It wasn’t cheap but it was at least doable for quite a number of households. However, due to border closures and restrictive measures, we are now looking at over BND4,000 for help around our home.
In the first few months of the pandemic in 2020, foreign workers were leaving the Sultanate en masse, due to uncertainties surrounding the little known virus that was spreading around the world. Once gone, it became a challenge to find replacements, given the number of restrictions to keep the populace safe.
It has been almost two years since we began our battle against COVID-19. While it is great news that Brunei has entered the Endemic Phase, many families continue to struggle to obtain domestic helpers, especially working parents with young children. It is an especially pressing need due to the limited spots at daycare centres, and a growing number of companies are asking their employees to return to the office.
Those who can afford the substantial cost will still have to face the possibility that the help may not match their needs, or have the helper run away from home. While runaway employees were not uncommon prior to the pandemic, even the most desperate of parents may not be willing to take the risk for the fear of forking out more to get the right help.
I hope the authorities could find a way to aid working parents, who are struggling to juggle between work and family, by setting a limit on the cost of hiring foreign domestic helpers.