1004 Written Answer by Minister for Manpower to PQ on unnatural deaths and suicide rates by work permit holders
NOTICE PAPER NO. 738 OF 2021 FOR THE SITTING ON 4 OCTOBER 2021
QUESTION NO. 1197 FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
MP: Mr Leon Perera
To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) in each of the last five years, what is the number of (i) suicides and (ii) “unnatural deaths” by work permit holders; (b) whether the suicide rate and rate of “unnatural death” among work permit holders exceed those of the general population in those five years; and (c) whether there has been an increase in the rate of (i) suicides and (ii) “unnatural deaths” among work permit holders residing in dormitories in the last six months as compared to pre-COVID-19 times.
- Between 2016 and 2020, the unnatural death and suicide rates among Work Permit Holders1 (WPHs) have been lower than that of the general population for each of the five years. However, there was variability observed during these five years. Both rates for WPHs were higher in 2020 than the preceding four years but lower than that for the general population in the same year. On average over the 5 years, there were 14.5 cases of unnatural deaths, including suicides, per 100,000 persons among WPHs. This was lower than the average for the general population2 at 17.2 cases per 100,000 persons3. Specifically, the suicide rate for WPHs was also lower at an average of 4.2 suicides per 100,000 persons than the general population’s average of 8.3 suicides per 100,000 persons.
- In the first half of this year, both the annualised rate of unnatural deaths and suicides specifically among Migrant Workers have come down from the highs observed in 2020 and are within the range recorded between 2016 and 2019, pre-COVID-19.
- 2020 had been a difficult time for our migrant workers, and also for the general population. In addition to other stressors felt during the pre-COVID-19 period, COVID-19 has brought new pressures in Singapore and to the families of our migrant workers in their home countries. We have been concerned and have setup a dedicated Project DAWN taskforce since November 2020 to support the mental health of our migrant workers. The taskforce developed a seven-point strategy to raise awareness on mental health literacy, ensure at-risk persons are identified early, and enable appropriate access to care services, including counselling and post-intervention support. This includes encouraging buddy systems in workplaces and dormitories, and training frontline teams and peer support leaders in psychological first aid. MOM will continue to place close attention in mental health of all workers and offer the help and support.