Cost Comparison: Helper Agency vs. Direct Hire Transfer in Singapore

As more households in Singapore consider employing domestic helpers, they often resort to two approaches: engaging a helper agency or pursuing a direct hire transfer. Each method surely has its benefits and costs. With that, explore a comprehensive breakdown of the expenses involved in each approach, enabling families to grasp the financial consequences of both options.

Agency Fees: What to Expect

Hiring a domestic helper through a helper agency is popular due to the convenience and comprehensive services. However, this convenience comes with significant costs. The primary expenses associated with agency fees include:

  1. Agency Fee: This is the most substantial cost component, typically ranging from SGD 1,000 to SGD 2,500. The fee covers the recruitment process, documentation, and administrative tasks. The exact amount varies depending on the agency’s reputation, the scope of services, and the employer’s specific requirements.
  2. Work Permit Application: The application for a work permit costs around SGD 30. This fee is usually included in the agency fee but can sometimes be billed separately.
  3. Security Bond and Insurance: Employers must purchase a security bond and insurance for the domestic helper. The security bond is SGD 5,000, but agencies often offer packages where you pay a premium (approximately SGD 300) for insurance that covers this bond. Comprehensive insurance, covering medical and personal accident costs, can vary between SGD 200 and SGD 400 annually.
  4. Medical Examination and Training: Domestic helpers must undergo a medical examination and attend a Settling-In Programme (SIP) before commencing work. The medical examination costs about SGD 80 to SGD 100, and the SIP fee is SGD 75.
  5. Placement Fee: This fee, which can be equivalent to one to two months of the helper’s salary, is usually deducted from the helper’s earnings. It serves as a placement fee for the agency, offsetting recruitment costs.

The initial outlay for hiring a domestic helper through a helper agency can range from SGD 2,500 to SGD 4,000 in total, excluding the monthly salary.

Direct Hire Transfer: Cost Considerations

Opting for a direct hire transfer maid in Singapore can be a more cost-effective alternative. This method involves hiring a domestic helper already in Singapore or those seeking a transfer to a new employer. The cost breakdown for this method includes:

  1. Work Permit Application: Similar to agency hiring, the work permit application fee remains at SGD 30. This process can be handled by the employer directly through the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) portal.
  2. Security Bond and Insurance: The security bond and insurance requirements are the same as those for agency hires. Employers can purchase the necessary insurance packages independently, costing between SGD 200 and SGD 400 annually.
  3. Medical Examination: If the domestic helper’s last medical examination was conducted more than six months ago, a new medical check-up, costing around SGD 80 to SGD 100, is required.
  4. Settling-In Programme (SIP): If the helper has already completed the SIP with their previous employer, they will not need to attend again, saving SGD 75. However, new helpers might need to attend the program.
  5. No Agency Fee: The most significant saving with direct hire transfers is the absence of agency fees. It can reduce the initial cost by SGD 1,000 to SGD 2,500.

The initial costs for a direct-hire transfer maid range from SGD 310 to SGD 930 in total, excluding the monthly salary. This method can result in substantial savings, making it an attractive option for many employers.

Comparing Monthly Expenses

Beyond initial costs, employers must also consider ongoing monthly expenses. For both hiring methods, the monthly salary of a domestic helper typically ranges from SGD 450 to SGD 600. Employers must also cover the monthly levy imposed by the MOM, which is SGD 300 for the first helper and SGD 450 for subsequent helpers. If the employer qualifies for a levy concession, the levy is reduced to SGD 60.


Deciding between engaging a direct-hire transfer maid or selecting a helper agency in Singapore hinges on the employer’s inclination towards convenience or cost-effectiveness. Although agencies offer a seamless experience, opting for direct hire presents notable financial benefits, particularly for individuals adept at managing administrative tasks autonomously. By comprehensively analysing the expenses associated with each approach, employers can make well-informed choices that align with their requirements and budgetary constraints.

Contact JForce Employment Service and let us help you create a harmonious and well-managed home environment with the right domestic help.