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Speech at Dormitory Awards 2018

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Minister of State for Manpower, Suntec City Convention Centre

Mr Steven Lee,
President, Dormitory Association of Singapore Limited,
Mr Bernard Menon,
Executive Director, Migrant Workers’ Centre
Distinguished guests,
Good evening.

  1. Let me first offer my congratulations to all 17 winners of the Dormitory Awards 2018. Well done, everyone!
  2. The inaugural Dormitory Awards was held last year. We celebrated the exemplary efforts of 11 factory-converted dormitories to provide a comfortable living environment for their residents.
  3. This year, we want to recognise dormitories which also place importance on their residents’ emotional and social well-being.
  4. We have 17 winners tonight, with a good mix of Purpose-Built and Factory-Converted Dormitories. The winning dormitories have all demonstrated how they have been actively engaging their residents to co-create a conducive living environment. Let me share with you a few examples.

    DDJV Dormitory
  5. At DDJV Dormitory, operated by TS Group Pte Ltd, the management demonstrates through their actions, that they listen to their residents.
  6. In one case, the residents informed the management that their rooms were too warm which had affected their sleep. The management installed industrial fans in the rooms, but the residents felt that ventilation was still poor and sleep was uncomfortable. The management then decided to install air-conditioners for every room, to ensure that they would be able to rest well.
  7. And that was not the only piece of feedback that the management responded to. Because of the noise and dust from the surrounding construction, the residents’ living areas were affected. It became unpleasant to hang out in the communal areas. The management took notice of this and erected a noise barrier and dust control meshing for the residents.
  8. Restful environment aside, DDJV arranges for celebratory concerts and communal meals to allow the residents to gather and bond as a community.

  9. Greyform Pte Ltd operates a Factory-Converted Dormitory, or FCD, that was specially designed to house their foreign workers. It was built with their workers’ wellbeing and comfort in mind and not simply put together as an afterthought. I visited the dormitory recently and was impressed by the communal facilities and social spaces.
  10. Besides facilities for team sports, the dormitory even has a roof-top community garden. I was told that the residents recently enjoyed a good harvest of vegetables, which they shared with one another. All these acts create a sense of belonging and camaraderie amongst the residents and operator, which strengthens the ‘heartware’ of a dormitory.    
  11. Greyform’s management also strives to make improvements to the dormitory by engaging their residents. After receiving feedback that the communal kitchen was warm and uncomfortable during peak usage, they installed a mechanical exhaust and ventilation system. Now, the kitchen is cooler and less stuffy. Foreign workers preparing their meals do so in a much more comfortable environment.

    Hai Leck Holdings
  12. At Hai Leck Holdings, there is a library where the residents can expand their knowledge and pick up new skills. The dormitory also organises English language classes to help residents better adapt to working and living in Singapore.
  13. The dining hall is airy and workers would usually meet and share a meal together, before or after work. What’s more, every morning, eggs and tea is readily available for the workers to consume.

    Giving Foreign Workers Greater Ownership of Living Environment
  14. Although I have only cited three exemplary dormitories, all our winners tonight have one thing in common – they place huge emphasis on the well-being of their foreign worker residents. They take active steps to continually improve their welfare.
  15. A progressive dormitory operator goes beyond providing facilities, and also looks into the social and emotional needs of foreign workers.
  16. Some of the winning dormitories have already adopted a few best practices like appointing foreign worker community leaders, and establishing active listening posts to gather feedback. These have helped to build trust and improve communications between residents and dormitory operators, and consequently enhanced the quality of life in dormitories.

    DormWatch – New Feedback Channel on Dormitory Matters 
  17. Last week, I met up with a group of foreign workers from different dormitories. They shared with me that their dormitories were well-run, and that they were happy to live and work in Singapore.
  18. I also learnt that our foreign worker friends were very savvy with online services. Some of them use the POSB Jolly app to remit money back to their families. They told me it was fast and convenient.
  19. They also talked about how they gave feedback about issues in their dormitories. Some would convey the issue to the security guards. Others would drop their feedback into a box. They thought that it would be useful to have an electronic platform to make it easier for them to submit feedback. Similarly, it would also make it easier for operators to track and manage the feedback of their residents.
  20. Tonight, I am pleased to launch DormWatch, an initiative which MOM has been working on arising from feedback like this.
  21. Using this app, foreign workers would simply snap a picture of any issue or problem within the dormitory, and submit the feedback to the operators. At the receiving end, the dormitory operators will be able to see the feedback by their residents and provide details on how the issues have been resolved. They can also communicate directly with the foreign worker through the app, should they require clarification on the issues raised.
  22. Feedback submitted through the app will also be shared with MOM. The platform promotes co-responsibility at the dormitories, where operators are encouraged to engage their residents frequently, and to work with them to improve living conditions and environment. MOM will only step in and work with both parties if there is an impasse.
  23. We have deliberately launched this new initiative in its Beta phase. We look forward to working with both the operators and the foreign workers to develop the app further so that it can best meet the needs of the users. Hence, I urge everyone here to please download the app during or after dinner tonight, and try it out!

    “My Favourite Moments” Photo Competition
  24. In conjunction with the Dormitory Awards, MOM organised a “My Favourite Moments” Photo Competition for foreign workers in April 2018. This is the second year we have organised this photo competition for foreign workers.
  25. This year, foreign workers were invited to share photos of their favourite moments in Singapore.
  26. I was told by the team that we received over 500 photo entries! That is very good response. From what I saw from the photo display outside the ballroom, many found joy in our landmarks and even our local food. I was personally very drawn to the photos. I found myself appreciating the beauty of our landmarks, often taken for granted. Seeing Marina Bay, the Botanical Gardens and the Merlion through the eyes of our workers was truly heartwarming.
  27. But beyond the beautiful sights, what was apparent in the photos was the joy expressed through the smiles and captions of our foreign workers. Each of these photos shared the beauty of Singapore through their eyes or a personal story. There is the beautiful skyline of Marina Bay by Islam Md Shazzadul, the tranquil flora and fauna of Botanic Gardens by S M Hakim Ullah and our beloved Orangutan, Ah Meng by Ali Likhon.
  28. Among the captions I read, Suresh Kumar Rajan shared about the love and comfort he found here in Singapore, while Rubel Sawket Hossen remembered memories of his childhood.
  29. I am heartened to read these stories, as it showed me how much it meant to these foreign workers to be able to work in Singapore.  I am really glad that Singapore has been a Home away from Home for many of them. 
  30. The awards for the photo competition will be presented later, but allow me to congratulate the winners now. Thank you for sharing your photos and stories with us.

    MWC and DASL’s Continued Support
  31. Last but not least, I would like to thank the Dormitory Association of Singapore Limited and the Migrant Workers’ Centre for their continued support and contribution in developing the Dormitory Awards. We look forward to having their continued support at the 2019 Dormitory Awards.

  32. We need to sustain concerted efforts to continuously improve the living standards and well-being of foreign workers in Singapore. All stakeholders, from employers and dormitory operators, to foreign workers themselves and partners like the Dormitory Association of Singapore Limited and the Migrant Workers’ Centre, have a role to play. Working together, we can achieve much more, for the benefit of everyone.
  33. Have a pleasant evening ahead. Thank you.