Domestic worker abuse

Photography: ​Tom White
Project: Editorial and writing / Visual Storytelling

The back story

Singapore has for years relied on low-skilled domestic workers to support its 5.4 million population. Some 220,000 women — many from the Philippines and Indonesia—call Singapore their home. They are known as the ‘silent army’, keeping households in order. They cook, clean and care for children and the elderly. When they leave their homes and move to cities like Singapore in search of better paid jobs, they leave their families behind. And what they find in their host country can be a challenging and brutal reality.

The idea

Domestic workers are largely voiceless in Singapore. It was important to visually show the lives of women who had experienced abuse. Personal stories of their abuse are hard to find and evaluate. Working with two migrant worker charities, HOME and Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), we were given access to interview and photograph women at a shelter.

The content

Based on interviews, photography and research we created a series of stories. These were published across international media. The stories raised awareness about the mistreatment of domestic workers and the lack of laws to prevent employer abuse. They also shone a small light on the many women who try to bravely escape their plight, but remain stuck in the Singapore system.

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