Asia has the highest number of domestic workers in the world, with over 33 million employed in the sector in Southern and Eastern Asia alone in 2019. Now, one of the oldest economic sectors is benefiting from technology and internet-based assistance. Startups that help maids in Southeast Asia are springing up, providing a new way for maids to find work, reducing fees associated with sending money home to their families, and providing a more equitable working environment.
Some of the top startups helping domestic workers arose from hiring experiences, while others arose in response to the needs of the sector’s employees.
Social impact through technology: exploring NFTs in Southeast Asia
JupViec, a Vietnamese app that connects households and domestic workers, has become the go-to app for those in need of home assistance. The platform offers access to daily or hourly workers who will manage the house, cook and provide childcare services. They also provide deep-cleaning and sanitation workers, which has become even more essential during the pandemic. Since its inception in 2012, the company has served over 100,000 customers in five major cities in Vietnam, and has a 98% satisfaction rating.
It has received funding in three rounds since 2016, with the latest investment coming from Simple Tech Investment in March 2020.
Ministry of Helpers
With a large number of domestic workers in Singapore and the country being a hub for innovative technology, the Ministry of Helpers, founded in 2022, combines the needs of the sector with the technology available. It developed its dynamic, one-stop-shop platform to meet the needs of those looking for a household to work in as well as those seeking staff for domestic help.
The platform uses blockchain technology in the form of shared ledgers to align the needs of the worker and the employer, making it easier for both to find a suitable match for their needs. Ministry of Helpers also assists in the interviewing and training processes, ensuring that the highest standards are met through a transparent and inclusive process.
Helper Choice, one of the longest-running platforms in this genre, was founded in 2012 by Laurence Fauchon and Florian Garivier to prevent the exploitation of domestic workers by removing the need to pay a fee to find a job and slow the forced labour and human trafficking of workers. By providing a secure platform for workers to find households, Helper Choice empowers domestic workers, which Fauchon felt was necessary after her own experience hiring a maid for her home in Hong Kong.
Yoopies, a European household worker platform, acquired it in 2019 for an undisclosed sum, and it now serves the Philippines in addition to its original markets. It collaborated with BeamAndGo to offer even more protection for Filipino maids by providing a secure way for them to send money to their families in the Philippines.
While the other startups mentioned above focus on helping workers and employees find each other, BeamAndGo is a financial technology (fintech) company. The Singapore-based company was founded to assist Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in sending money home to their families and encouraging savings for retirement or returning to the Philippines.
By allowing household staff to send remittances in the form of vouchers for products and services, the platform addresses the need of many domestic workers to support their families in their home countries. Workers can purchase gift certificates and can send them via SMS to save money while meeting their family’s needs. Workers can ensure that their payments are used for necessities by using this method of sending money, allowing them to target their spending and make savings for their future.
In 2019, the company received an undisclosed amount of pre-seed round funding from Accelerating Asia and has partnered with Helper Choice to assist OFWs in Singapore in sending payments home.
The top startups helping domestic workers in the region offer platforms that provide services on many levels. Many domestic workers benefit from the added security provided by these apps and portals, which range from assisting employees in finding stable working conditions to providing them with more accessible ways to ensure they can meet the needs of their families. With many people working from home during the pandemic, the demand for workers to manage the household chores, cook meals and care for children grew, creating even more opportunities for platforms that serve the domestic helper market.
As more startups that help maids in Southeast Asia emerge, the hope is that technology will help in putting an end to the sometimes deplorable conditions and situations many domestic workers face when living abroad. Social entrepreneurial projects and innovations like these can go a long way toward making workplaces safer for employees while also meeting the needs of households and promoting economic stability.