Police received 270 reports of abuse a year on average from 2017 to 2020: MOM
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) revealed this when it responded to queries from The New Paper about the number of such cases as well as the number of calls received on its helpline.
A MOM spokesman said enforcement action was taken in 43 per cent of the cases while no further action was required in 44 per cent of them. Investigations are ongoing for the remaining cases.
"A very small proportion of the calls made to the MOM helpline relate to abuse, which MOM refers to the police," the spokesman added.
"Allegations of abuse are taken seriously and investigated by the police."
Common queries on helpline calls touch on issues like salary, job scope, and termination of employment.
In a Facebook post about maid abuse last month, Minister of Manpower Josephine Teo said MDWs could call the MOM helpline to speak to an officer.
She was writing about the need to improve measures to detect abuse after the court case involving Ms Piang Ngaih Don, who was tortured by her employer. The 24-year-old Myanmar national died on July 26, 2016.
Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) executive director Shamsul Kamar said it is important to put the figures in perspective - 270 reports from around 250,000 maids here, and out of which less than half required enforcement action.
But Mr Shamsul added: "That being said, every case of physical abuse against an MDW is unacceptable. We are glad that there are laws in place to protect our MDWs."
A spokesman for Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics said: "Many more cases of domestic worker abuse probably go unreported as many of them simply do not have the chance to do so.
"As seen in Piang's case, domestic workers who are victims of abuse can go without rest days and access to mobile phones, and such isolating circumstances make it difficult or impossible to report instances of abuse. Many also choose not to report abuse out of fear of losing employment."
Maid agents believe they can play a vital role in stopping abuse.
Maid Avenue general manager William Lau said: "Tensions between employer and employee can arise in the first few weeks of deployment, especially for helpers who are new to Singapore.
"We always call our helpers within one week of their deployment to ensure they are settling in well and provide them with the assurance that they can turn to us if they face any trouble."
Ms Flora Sha, who manages United Channel, conducts a briefing before the maids are deployed, and they are told they should call the agency in the event of any abuse.
This proved useful as an MDW called her once to inform her that she had been lightly tapped by her employer in anger. Ms Sha was able to mediate between the pair and ensure it did not happen again.
Ms Sha said: "Being a familiar face that the helpers can trust, agencies can play an important role by being there for them."