Advocate all you must; but to what effect and purpose?


“In short, it is time for Singapore to take greater steps towards ensuring that all members of its community are treated fairly and decently.”

That was the conclusion made by Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) in its Universal Periodic Review. TWC2 is a local non-profit organisation that is dedicated to improving conditions for low-wage migrant workers.


Indeed, advocacy can lead to better policies and enlightened public opinion; but to what effect and purpose? Recommendations have to lead to practical outcomes for the migrant workers, while considering the possible impacts on our society.

One recommendation by TWC2 includes setting laws to prohibit the waiver of more than 2 rest days a month for the migrant workers, even by mutual consent. This is possibly set to prevent workers from overworking and from exploitation by employers.

However, this may not be what the migrant workers want. It should be the prerogative of the migrant worker to decide on what could be of personal choice. For the sake of flexibility, I don’t think a law should be mandated.

Another recommendation made by TWC2 is to allow migrant workers to form their own independent trade unions. This was their suggestion: “Migrant workers should enjoy the same rights as other workers in Singapore to form and manage trade unions”.

Perhaps this recommendation was crafted in relation to the Little India riot. No doubt, all workers should have the right to form a union. Yet this may not be meaningful to the case of migrant workers.

Workers can join the unions which their industry or company is classified in. It is difficult for domestic workers to join a union, because collective bargaining with their different employers is not possible. Perhaps there is also no need to categorise these workers based on their nationality, just like how there is no distinguished union for people of different races here.

Suggestions can always be made easily, but the effects of their implementations have to be considered at a multi-faceted level. We have TWC2, Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) and Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME).

If advocacy is a must, shouldn’t there be just one centralised organisation to champion all these efforts? This is definitely something to think about.






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