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Oral Answer by Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng to PQ on Migrant Workers' Mental Well-being

NOTICE PAPER NO. 792 OF 2021 FOR THE SITTING ON 02 November 2021

MP: Mr Edward Chia Bing Hui

To ask the Minister for Manpower regarding migrant workers living in dormitories (a) from January to October 2021, how many (i) sought mental health care and (ii) had to stop work temporarily due to severe mental health concerns; (b) how does the data compare to that of 2020 and 2019; (c) whether the Ministry has conducted any research or survey to ascertain the mental well-being of these workers; and (d) what are the efforts to further manage their mental health as many of these workers are still unable to leave the dormitories. 


1. As we shared in our replies to Members Ms He Ting Ru’s and Mr Louis Ng’s questions on migrant workers’ mental well-being, MOM is committed to support the mental well-being of our migrant workers and is sparing no efforts to strengthen the mental health support ecosystem for them. Since last November, the Project DAWN taskforce has worked with our Non-Government Organisations (NGO) partners, healthcare partners, employers, and dormitory operators to develop such a support ecosystem approach to look out for migrant workers, listen to their concerns, identify those who need more support and link them with the appropriate care channels. 

2. First, we are raising awareness of mental health issues and broadening outreach of training in basic mental health and psychological first aid (PFA). Second, we are working with our NGO partners to make counselling and paracounselling more accessible. Third, mental healthcare has been made even more accessible. Any migrant workers identified to benefit from mental healthcare will be linked up with appropriate services, including counselling hotlines. In particular, an escalation pathway with IMH has also been developed to ensure timely care for more severe cases, when necessary. Between January and September 2021, 98 Work Permit Holders (WPH) were admitted to IMH. This was lower as compared to the same period in 2020 but was higher as compared to 2019.

3. An earlier study conducted by Yale-NUS on migrant workers’ mental health from June to Oct 2020[1] showed no notable difference in stress, anxiety, and depression levels among locals and migrant workers, although there were indications of higher levels of stress amongst migrant workers with movement restrictions. Nonetheless, any easing of movement restrictions will need to be done in a careful and calibrated manner, so as not to trade one stress for another – in particular the stress of overwhelming our healthcare system. Since August last year, we have allowed dormitory residents to visit Recreation Centres (RCs). We recently increased the frequency of RC visits to thrice a week, up from once a week. We also removed pre-visit testing requirements for vaccinated migrant workers, which benefits more than 98% of the dormitory population. Concurrently, we are working with RC operators and community partners, to introduce programmes and new offerings to make RC visits more engaging.

4. We recently expanded community visits from 500 to 3,000 vaccinated migrant workers per week and included Geylang Serai/Joo Chiat. We also extended the visit duration to 8 hours.

5. We remain committed towards caring for our migrant workers’ mental well-being through a good support system, as well as to continue to ease measures safely. MOM will continue to monitor the mental health of migrant workers by working closely with our partners.


  1. Saw, Y. E., Tan, E. Y., Buvanaswari, P., Doshi, K., & Liu, J. C. (2021). Mental health of international migrant workers amidst large-scale dormitory outbreaks of COVID-19: A population survey in Singapore. Journal of migration and health, 4, 100062.