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Comprehensive framework to ensure foreign workers' well-being

  • The Straits Times (29 Nov 2017): Legislation needed to take care of foreign workers
  • The Straits Times (29 Nov 2017): Do more to protect those who report errant employers

Comprehensive framework in place to ensure foreign workers' well-being
- The Straits Times, 11 December 2017

  1. We are heartened by the concerns of the writers, Dr George Wong Seow Choon (Legislation needed to take care of foreign workers; Nov 29) and Mr Jeffrey Law Lee Beng (Do more to protect those who report errant employers; Nov 29).
  2. We agree our foreign workers deserve a safe and fair environment to live and work.
  3. This requires the Government, employers, accommodation providers, employment agencies and the foreign workers themselves to play their parts.
  4. We have progressively strengthened our laws and policies governing the fair treatment of foreign workers.
  5. In addition to a safe work environment, employers are required to provide their work permit holders with upkeep and acceptable accommodation.
  6. Employment agencies owe a duty of care to the foreign workers whom they place and are prohibited from overcharging.
  7. Accommodation providers such as dormitory operators are also required to abide by standards on sanitation, space norms and amenities like Wi-Fi.
  8. Coupled with a robust inspection regime, complaints on housing conditions have decreased from about 580 in 2014 to about 440 in the first 11 months of the year.
  9. In the past five years, about 40 employment agencies have been prosecuted or issued with composition fines or warnings for overcharging.
  10. Over the same period, about 160 employers have been prosecuted for salary non-payment, and 26 for providing substandard accommodation to their foreign workers.
  11. Foreign workers must play their part too.
  12. They have multiple channels to report employment issues, and should do so as early as possible.
  13. Since the setting up of the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management in April, we assisted more than 2,000 foreign workers to recover their unpaid salaries in full.
    Foreign workers who are being sent home before their claims are settled can inform our immigration officers at the checkpoints, who will assist in referring them to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
  14. Foreign workers are informed of this right when they arrive here.
  15. Action will also be taken against employers who attempt to send their workers home without settling all outstanding claims.
  16. We work closely with non-governmental organisations like the Migrant Workers Centre to ensure that the well-being of foreign workers is not compromised during the claim period.
  17. We also work with partner agencies to help take care of our foreign workers’ social needs.
  18. We have facilitated the setting up of dedicated foreign worker recreation centres, which provide alternative gathering spots and amenities for their use.
  19. MOM is committed to protecting the rights and interests of all workers. Those with information on illegal recruitment and workplace practices can call MOM on 6438-5122 or e-mail All information will be kept strictly confidential.    

Legislation needed to take care of foreign workers
- The Straits Times, 29 November 2017

  1. It is important for all of us to realize that foreign workers are an important and indispensable part of our labour force.
  2. Without them, our economy would collapse.
  3. Therefore, logically, their welfare is the responsibility of the Manpower Ministry and the whole country.
  4. We must make them welcome, and integrate them into our social structure.
  5. We must make their environment a happy one, and help them to be more productive.
  6. This attitude must be adopted not only by the authorities, but also by us, as citizens.
  7. There are many areas that need attention.
  8. The state of the workers' accommodation needs urgent government intervention.
  9. At present, the workers are poorly housed, and many have to pay highly for very poor accommodation,
  10. Their leisure activities, especially at weekends, also need attention.
  11. Large groups of foreign workers congregating at shopping malls on Sundays is a source of irritation to Singaporeans, who complain about their bad behavior and littering.
  12. This is also a public health and environmental issue.
  13. There are many more areas that need attention.
  14. If we look upon them as fellow humans living in our midst, we will need to legislate to look after their welfare.
  15. We must not let it be said that Singapore exploits and neglects its foreign workers.

Do more to protect those who report errant employers
- The Straits Times, 29 November 2017

  1. The Settling-In Programme will help in the effective integration of new migrant workers into our local environment.
  2. With more foreign workers knowing their rights and what to expect, errant employers may be deterred from indulging in irresponsible practices such as unpaid salaries, poor housing conditions and lack of safety procedures.
  3. Employment agencies may also think twice before overcharging.
  4. However, there will be workers who do not dare to complain about unfair treatment, as they worry about the repercussions, especially of being repatriated to their home country.
  5. To ensure workers seeking redress for grievances are not victimized, the Manpower Ministry and social organisations must have a mechanism to protect workers who report employment issues.
  6. Also, it can be a challenging task for the Manpower Ministry alone to conduct this mandatory Settling-In Programme, as there are too many foreign construction workers.
  7. It would be ideal if employment agencies are also involved in conducting the programme, as they are the main point of contact for workers whom they recruit for their clients.
  8. Above all, the employment agencies have a better understanding of the workers' profiles, thus facilitating easy communication.