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Survey Shows about Nine in 10 Foreign Workers Satisfied with Working in Singapore

7 December 2014

  1. A joint survey commissioned by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) showed that foreign workers (FWs) are generally satisfied with working in Singapore.
  2. The 2014 survey, conducted by an independent survey company between March and July this year, involved face-to-face interviews with some 3,500 Work Permit (WP) holders and 500 S Pass holders1. This is the second time that the survey was conducted, after the first in 20112. The survey sought to obtain a better understanding of the employment conditions and well-being of FWs in Singapore.

    Key findings of the survey
  3. The key findings of the survey were highlighted by Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin in his speech at the MWC’s sixth International Migrants Day event on 7 December 2014, where he penned his well wishes to migrant workers on a heart installation3. The event, themed “Appreciating U – Our Migrant Workers”, was part of the National Trades Union Congress’ on-going “Appreciating U” movement, and sought to recognise the contributions of migrant workers to nation building and making Singapore a vibrant, clean and beautiful country.
  4. The scope of the survey covered:
    i. FWs’ overall satisfaction with working in Singapore;
    ii. FWs’ experiences at various stages of the employment process;
    iii. FWs’ awareness of their own responsibilities and responsibilities of their employers, and
    iv. FWs’ awareness of channels for redress and assistance.

    High levels of satisfaction
  5. The survey found that about nine in 10 FWs (87.7% of WP holders and 90.7% of S Pass holders) were satisfied with working in Singapore. A similar proportion (85.7% of WP holders and 93.4% of S Pass holders) would recommend Singapore as a place to work. Good pay, good working and living conditions, and sense of security were some commonly cited reasons. More than seven in 10 FWs (76.9% of WP holders and 71.4% of S Pass holders) planned to continue working with their current employers after their contracts have expired.

    Generally positive working conditions and experiences
  6. More than nine in 10 FWs (about 94%) indicated that their working conditions in Singapore were consistent with the promises made by people who helped them to get the job. A similar proportion (about 93%) was aware of the different components of their salary. 
  7. When faced with employment-related problems, most FWs would turn to their supervisors (57.3% of WP holders and 47.8% of S Pass holders) or MOM (25.2% of WP holders and 15.5% of S Pass holders). About nine in 10 (89.2%) of WP holders also expressed confidence that MOM was fair and would be able to help them when they faced problems.

    Room to Enhance Pre-employment Experiences and Awareness of Employment Laws
  8. However, there were some results which were less encouraging. 74.7% of WP holders, excluding Malaysians, received their In-Principle Approval (IPA) letters4 in English. 21.3% received the letters in their native languages while 4.0% did not receive any IPA letter.
  9. About four in 10 (37.4%) WP holders kept both their WPs and passports with them. Of the WP holders who had left these documents with their employers, 42.6% had requested for the documents to be returned to them. Almost all of these requests had been granted.
  10. Compared to 2011, FWs were less likely to be aware of certain employment laws, for instance, that they are not allowed to work for another employer other than the one specified in their WPs; and that they can claim compensation if they suffer permanent disabilities due to work accidents. They were also less likely to receive a physical record of salary payments.

  11. Mr Alvin Lim, Divisional Director of the Workplace Policy and Strategy Division at MOM, said: “We are generally satisfied with the results of the survey, which showed that majority of the FWs are satisfied working and living in Singapore. This is consistent with the results of our 2011 survey as well. We recognise that the situation is not perfect and there is always room for improvement. MOM will look into ways to improve our outreach and educational efforts for foreign workers, so that they are not only aware of their rights but respect the social norms of the communities that they live in.”
  12. Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, Chairman of MWC said: “Any migrant worker that faces ill treatment and abuse is one too many for MWC. MWC is especially concerned about migrant workers’ housing and care, and would like to see better housing conditions. We will continue to reach out and ensure that migrant workers have 24/7 access to help so they do not have to suffer in silence and take matters into their own hands. We sought MOM’s partnership in this survey. Now, we need MOM’s partnership in addressing these findings. Beyond this, we need a concerted effort from all segments of our community to eradicate unfair employment practices against migrant workers.”
  13. The full report on the findings is available on MOM’s website /-/media/mom/documents/press-releases/2014/foreign-worker-survey-2014.pdf

1 A Work Permit (WP) is generally issued to a semi-skilled or unskilled foreign worker, while an S Pass is issued to a mid-level skilled worker (e.g. technician) who earns a fixed monthly salary of at least $2,200 to work in Singapore. The respondents were selected randomly and the sampling frame was designed to be generally representative of the FW population profile, for example, the sector in which the worker was employed.
2 The 2011 report can be found at: The topline interim findings for the 2014 FW study can be found at: /-/media/mom/documents/statistics-publications/foreign-worker-study-2014.pdf
3 The installation by the Labour Movement, grassroots organisations and migrant workers themselves, was accorded an entry in the Singapore Book of Records for Largest Heart Formation made of Heart-shaped Notes.
4 The worker’s copy of the IPA letter is issued by the MOM’s Work Pass Division upon a successful application of a Work Permit, and is available in the key native languages of work permit holders. The letter contains key information such as the worker’s occupation and basic monthly salary. In order to allow the worker to make an informed choice on whether to take up employment in Singapore, under the Employment of Foreign Manpower (Work Passes) Regulations, employers are required to send the worker’s copy of the IPA letter, in its entirety as furnished by MOM, to the worker prior to his departure for Singapore.