The state of migrant workers in Singapore need attention and stronger regulations.
The Migrant Worker’s Center reports that cases involving salary-related disputes are on the rise. In 2012, about half of the 2,500 cases the MWC handled involved salary disputes. The number rose to 60% (3500 cases) this year.
Another report by the Singapore Management University in August 2013 revealed worrying statistics:
65% of injured and salary-claim workers reported that they had been threatened by their employers with premature repatriation. Of working workers, 12% have been so threatened. Such intimidatory behaviour by employers seems very common.
The most striking finding was how miserable injured and salary-claim workers were. Some 62% of them exhibited symptoms of serious mental illness, compared to just 12% of working workers. Agent fee debts are a contributing factor to severe stress faced by these workers.
Even if you are not of the belief that they should be given fair treatment, you should at least worry that their state of well being affects Singapore society at large.
Here are some key regulations sorely needed to address the findings of the above mentioned reports.
1. Prevent overselling by foreign agencies
Many foreigners come to Singapore on high hopes of a good pay, to enjoy the hospitality of foreign country and to discover paths to success. You may not be able to prevent overselling, but we at least enforce Terms and Conditions of employment to be standardised and mandated under law.
2. Automate timely payment of salaries
By mandating electronic payment, recalcitrant employers would have little opportunity to delay payment, or non-payment. There are many ways a bad employer can dishonour payment and when that happens, the chain of effects can lead to crime. Where else would one expect a migrant worker to find money from?
S-Pass holders are required to be paid via GIRO, why shouldn’t the others also?
3. Allow workers to change employers and placement
Much of the time, workers are concerned that their reports would lead to them losing their jobs. If action is taken against their employer, the worker should be provided a mental safety net of being able to switch jobs.
4. Reduce anti-foreigner rhetoric
Funding should be provided to NGOs to take a lead in reducing anti-foreigner rhetoric and to run campaigns on equality/inclusiveness. Are Singaporeans foreigner friendly? I think that question would be best answered honestly by our own observations.
I hope the Migrant Worker’s Centre and the Ministry of Manpower will consider these regulatory changes. It will end up making Singapore a better place to live in for all.
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