Around 1,000 dormitories to transition to improved standards to strengthen migrant worker housing resilience
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will be transitioning around 1,000 existing Purpose-Built Dormitories (PBDs) and Factory Converted Dormitories (FCDs) to improved interim standards under the Dormitory Transition Scheme (DTS) by 2030. The DTS will strengthen public health resilience in migrant worker (MW) dormitories against future disease outbreaks by improving their ability to reduce the spread of infectious diseases. The dormitories under the DTS will subsequently move to the New Dormitory Standards (NDS) by 2040.
2 The DTS is part of MOM’s multi-year efforts to uplift MW housing resilience and improve living conditions for dormitory residents. These include the NDS announced in September 2021 and the expansion of the regulatory coverage of the Foreign Employee Dormitories Act from 1 Apr 2023 to cover about 1,500 dormitories with seven or more beds. MOM will also drive innovation in health resilience and liveability through two upcoming Purpose-Built Dormitories (PBDs) that are built and owned by MOM, and operated by a corporate entity in partnership with the private sector.
Improved Dormitory Standards
3 MOM had considered feedback from various stakeholders (including employers, dormitory operators and Non-Governmental Organisations) in designing the DTS standards and timeline. These include the need to transition dormitories as soon as practically possible for public health reasons, significant infrastructural constraints faced by some dormitories, and the need to minimise disruption to the dormitory bed supply amidst a tight MW housing market.
4 The various standards that MW dormitories are required to adhere to are as follows:
Interim Standards under DTS
(to be implemented by 2030)
(to be implemented by 2040)
Occupancy per room
No maximum residents per room
No requirement for spacing between beds
≤ 12 residents per room
≥ 1m spacing between beds (recommended)
≤ 12 residents per room
≥ 1m spacing between beds
Living space, excluding shared living facilities
≥ 3.5 sqm/resident on average, varies across dormitories
≥ 3.6 sqm/resident
≥ 4.2 sqm/resident
≥ 1 set of toilet, shower, sink and urinal per 15 residents
Common or en-suite toilets allowed
≥ 1 set of toilet, shower, and hand-wash basin per 6 residents
≥ 1 set of toilet, shower, and hand-wash basin per 6 residents
- ≥ 10 isolation bed per 1,000 bed spaces
- En-suite toilets recommended but not required apart from first 1 in 10 isolation beds
- No restrictions on number of beds per room for the next 9 in 10 isolation beds
- Additional isolation beds at ≥ 15 isolation beds per 1,000 bed spaces (to be stood up during public health outbreaks, convertible from existing spaces)
- No specifications on the number of beds per room or toilet provision.
- ≥ 10 isolation beds per 1,000 bed spaces
- En-suite toilets required for all isolation rooms
- Only 1-bedded rooms allowed for the first 5 per 10 isolation beds. For the next 5 beds, 2-bedded rooms are allowed if there is partitioning between beds
- Additional isolation beds at ≥ 15 per 1,000 bed spaces (to be stood up during public health outbreaks, convertible from existing spaces)
- Only 1 or 2-bedded rooms allowed. 2-bedded rooms are allowed if there is partitioning between beds.
- En-suite toilets are recommended.
Phased Transition of Existing Dormitories to Improved Standards
5 The vast majority of eligible dormitories will progressively transit to the interim standards between 2027 and 2030, with a few large dormitories assessed to have higher public health risks transiting earlier. Such an approach will ensure that there are sufficient dormitory beds to meet employers’ needs even as the transition takes place. Dormitory operators will also be expected to put in place plans to minimise disruption to MW residents while retrofitting works are being undertaken.
6 Thereafter, by 2040, all existing dormitories will be required to implement the full NDS requirements, even if they had undergone DTS. This phased approach will provide existing dormitories sufficient time to meet NDS requirements and minimise disruption to dormitory bed supply.
7 MOM will work with dormitories on their individual transition timelines under the DTS. Details will be shared with dormitory operators at a later time. Dormitory operators are encouraged to inform employers and their resident workers as early as possible about their intended transition timeline, so that affected employers can make alternative arrangements for their workers’ housing.
8 Dormitories with leases expiring in 2033 or earlier will be exempted from the DTS. It would not be practical to require these dormitories to undergo retrofitting to meet DTS standards when their remaining lease durations are short. Exempted dormitories looking to secure new leases after their current leases expire will be required to meet NDS requirements.
9 As the DTS provides broader public health safeguards for Singapore, MOM is considering some financial support to dormitories that transition to improved standards under DTS. This will partially defray the significant costs to dormitory operators of retrofitting existing buildings to meet new infrastructure standards. More details will be announced at a later date.
Multi-Year Effort to Uplift MW Housing Resilience
10 “The new dormitory standards apply to new dormitories being built, but we have many existing dormitories. The Dormitory Transition Scheme is thus an important step that uplifts the standards of our existing dormitories, creating a meaningful impact on the wider dormitory landscape,” said Senior Minister of State for Manpower, Dr Koh Poh Koon. “The scheme is part of our broader effort to transform the migrant worker ecosystem by fortifying housing standards, improving healthcare support and enhancing social well-being.”
 Approximately 235,000 beds across existing PBDs and FCDs.
 These standards apply to all new applications submitted on or after 18 September 2021 to the relevant Government agencies for clearance to develop a dormitory.
 The previous standard for minimum living space was 4.5sqm/resident, and included shared living facilities (e.g., en-suite kitchen, toilets, yard spaces). Excluding the shared living facilities, this broadly works out to a living space of 3.5sqm/resident on average. In practice, there is a wide range of living space provisions within the overall ≥4.5 sqm/resident requirement, and many existing dormitories are below 3.5sqm/resident.
 Communal toilets will be allowed for dormitories with infrastructure constraints on a case-by-case basis, subject to approval by MOM.
 Please refer to the key improved standards for new dormitories, previously announced on 17 September 2021.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- Why did MOM decide to introduce the interim standards retrospectively on existing dormitories?
- The interim standards are being imposed retrospectively to improve public health resilience within dormitories at the earliest opportunity to mitigate the spread of future diseases. As the risk of large-scale disease outbreaks such as COVID is rising steadily due to several reasons, there is urgency to complete the DTS as soon as practically possible.1
- Imposing the New Dormitory Standards (NDS) only upon the expiry of existing dormitories’ leases would have resulted in existing dormitories remaining vulnerable to disease spread for a much longer period of time.
- Will MOM consider appeals/waivers, such as from dormitory operators facing constraints?
- As the DTS interim standards are critical for public health resilience, all existing dormitories are required to undergo the DTS unless they meet the exemption criteria and/or meet the interim standards.
- If a dormitory faces significant infrastructure constraints, the dormitory can write in to MOM to explain the constraints and propose other measures to mitigate the risks of disease outbreak in the dormitory.
- Will dormitories not licensed under the Foreign Employee Dormitories Act (FEDA) (dorms with capacity of 6 or fewer beds) be required to undergo DTS?
- No, DTS is not applicable to non-FEDA dormitories with such low capacities per room as the risks of mixing and disease outbreak are minimal, and thus there is relatively lower impact on public health resilience.
- We encourage such dormitories to meet DTS interim standards or NDS where possible.
- Why do the interim standards not require improvements to other requirements, such as the provision of wi-fi in all rooms?
- The DTS focuses on critical infrastructural changes within dormitories to improve public health resilience.
- Some other NDS requirements, such as redesigning sewage to enable wastewater surveillance or further segregation of common facilities within dormitories, will be difficult for existing buildings to comply with major and costly renovations.
- MOM also regularly reviews the FEDA licensing conditions (LCs) to continuously uplift standards and living conditions in dormitories. Changes to LCs will be made as and when MOM deems them necessary, in consultation with the dormitory industry. These changes will take place independently of the DTS.
- In light of MOM’s overall efforts to improve dormitory standards, MOM would welcome voluntary early adoption of standards that exceed the interim standards, especially if they also meet or exceed the NDS.
- Can dormitories choose to move straight to NDS now or within the DTS window?
- Yes, dormitories may retrofit directly to NDS within the DTS window or at their own discretion before 2040.
- MOM encourages dormitories to inform MOM of their plans early, so that MOM and other agencies can ensure sufficient bed supply.
- Can dormitories choose when to undergo the DTS? Can dormitories start work earlier and meet the interim standards before 2027 if they want to?
- MOM will open applications by 2025 for dormitories to apply for their preferred year to complete transition within the window of 2027-2030. However, there will be a cap on the number of beds that can transition each year to spread out the impact on bed supply. More details of the scheduling and application process will be shared when ready.
- MOM encourages dormitories that intend to start work earlier to inform MOM early of their plans, so that MOM and other agencies can assess and manage the impact to bed supply.
- Are there any dormitories that would have to complete the transition under DTS before 2027? How will dormitories be informed that they should start earlier?
- Only a small handful of dormitories need undergo the DTS before 2027 and they have been informed.
- The vast majority of dormitories will transit to the interim standards between 2027 and 2030.
- MOM will announce more details on the transition schedule at a later date.
- Will MOM provide support for the transition?
- As the DTS provides broader health benefits to Singapore and Singaporeans, MOM will provide financial support to dormitories that undergo DTS.
- MOM’s financial support will partially defray the significant costs to dormitory operators of retrofitting existing buildings to meet new standards. This is in recognition that the Government usually does not require retrospective retrofitting to existing buildings to meet new infrastructure standards.
- Dormitories will still be required to co-pay as they too derive benefits from improved public health resilience and business continuity.
- More details will be announced at a later date.
- Will non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating dormitories and shelters undergoing DTS be provided with financial support?
- Yes, NGO-operated shelters and dormitories licensed under FEDA will need to undergo DTS. Likewise, the Government will support their transition to the DTS interim standards, per other dormitories.
- Based on the 2027-2030 transition timeline, retrofitting works will start on or after 2025. We are still assessing the cost implications. More details will be announced at a later date.
- When and how will dormitories be invited to apply for their preferred year of transition under the DTS?
- MOM is still working on the details of the application process and will inform and brief dormitory operators when ready.
- Tentatively, MOM will open applications once a year from 2025 to 2027, with each year having a corresponding completion date (e.g., applications in 2025 will be for dormitories that will complete the transition by 2027).
- Who should I contact if I have any questions?
- Please get in touch with the Dormitory Association of Singapore Limited (DASL) or your relevant trade association and chambers (TACs). MOM has been in close contact with them, and they will convey your feedback to MOM.
- Alternatively, you can contact MOM directly.