When to call it a day?

By Juliet Ugay

“Twenty two years!” This is what Marie Coloma answered when I asked her how long she has been working as a Domestic Worker in Singapore. Marie, who is 46 years old and a native of Tabuk Kalinga, Philippines, is mother to a 23 year –old. Her son is in his third year of school, taking up Hotel and Restaurant Management.

marie
Marie and her son

Marie is planning to retire when she reaches the age of 50. When she returns home for good, the petite and cheerful lady plans to set up a business together with her close friends. She thinks of starting a shop that sells school supplies and has a photocopying machine. She also plans to put up a canteen near a school, which her son will manage in time – if he wants to. She said that it will be good to be home because she can make up for those times she wasn’t with her son, and she’ll be able to take care of her ageing parents as well.

saturnina
Saturina as an Aidha volunteer

Another Domestic Worker, Saturnina Rivera, 47 and single, plans to retire when she turns 50 or when her 2-year contract with her present employer is up. She has been working in Singapore for 21 years. She hopes to develop land that she bought a few years back to put up a massage parlour and piggery. A portion of her property includes a vegetable farm her brother is managing at the moment. Because Saturnina has no family of her own, she has been able to save most of her salary. Despite being single, she says she is happy and contented with what she has now and that soon she will be her own boss.

Retirement- I had never really thought about it until I interviewed these ladies.

There are some Domestic Workers here who have stayed longer than 22 years and when I asked them about when are they going back for good, many of them said they will stay as long as they are fit to work. The thought of a very slow phase of life in their home country made them stay here for as long as someone still wants to hire them. Others are choosing to continue to work because they have difficulties getting a job in their home country, where most companies and employers prefer fresh graduates and competition is high.

Retirement may still be a long way off for many of us, but proper planning for it can lead a more secure, less stressful life in the future. I have heard that a lot of Domestic Workers who worked in Singapore for more than 20 years and no savings, because they sent all their earnings to their families back home. Sometimes, they go back to their countries with just a little money. It’s a sad truth.

Domestic Workers in Singapore have no access to formal retirement funds so it is important to plan something that can benefit them when they decide to retire. Saving some of the salary every month is a good thing to do. You can use this money if you plan to put up a business when you retire, like Marina and Saturnina did. For Filipino DWs, monthly contributions to government institutions like Social Security System (SSS), PAG-IBIG and PHILHEALTH is also a way of preparing for retirement as you can benefit from them in the long run.

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