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How the 1978 changes to the foreign domestic workers law in Singapore increased the female labour supply

Freire, Tiago (2013): How the 1978 changes to the foreign domestic workers law in Singapore increased the female labour supply.

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Abstract

In 1978, Singapore was the first country to introduce legislation allowing foreign domestic workers (e.g. maids) to work in the country with special visas. Singapore, with its liberal wage policy (no minimum wage), is also the best quasi-natural experiment in determining how a reduction in the cost of domestic work increases the supply of highly skilled female workers. Though Singapore is often cited in the literature as a success story, there are no studies that try to quantify the impact of this legislation. In this paper, we use data from the census conducted between 1957 and 1990, and Singapore's Yearbook of Manpower Statistics between 1974 and 1985, to evaluate the impact of the 1978 legislation in terms of increasing the labour supply of Singaporean women. We compare the female labour supply before and after 1978, for young and older women, high and low-skilled women, and Singaporean-Malay versus Singaporean-Chinese women. We find that the labour supply of women affected by this policy increased by between 2.7% and 12.7%, consistent with previous findings.

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