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Opening Address at MWC May Day Celebrations

Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad, MWC Recreation Club @ Soon Lee

Dr Robert Yap
President, Singapore National Employers Federation

Mr Heng Chee How
NTUC Deputy Secretary-General

Ms Cham Hui Fong
NTUC Assistant Secretary- General

Mr Yeo Guat Kwang
Chairman, Migrant Workers’ Centre

Distinguished guests,

A very good evening. I am happy to join you as we celebrate May Day with our foreign worker friends.

2. First, I would like to congratulate MWC which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. MWC has grown from a humble outfit of 5, to its current team of 25 staff. MWC also operates a mobile office to expand their outreach to foreign workers in dormitories and work sites, in addition to its centre located at Serangoon Road. With the help of more than 24,000 youths and volunteers, MWC has managed to engage over 800,000 foreign workers through its events and activities over the past years, and provided direct assistance to more than 26,000 foreign workers facing employment-related issues. One of them is Mr S Sirajudeen, a chef from India whom MWC had helped to recover almost $20,000 in salary arrears. He was very thankful for what MWC had done for him.
 
3. Recognising the importance of having someone who can speak the same languages as foreign workers, MWC recruited 3,500 foreign worker ambassadors to guide and assimilate new foreign workers. MWC also operates help kiosks at recreation centres and a 24-hour helpline. Through this helpline, MWC was able to ease the concerns of a highly distressed Mr Jaman, a Bangladeshi Construction worker who had to undergo emergency treatment in a hospital last year. The doctor on duty called MWC to seek assistance in translating the details of the medical procedure to Mr Jaman. These are just some of the laudable work carried out by MWC. Thank you MWC for all that you have done.   

Appreciating Foreign Workers’ Contributions

4. Foreign workers make important contributions to Singapore. They complement our local workforce, across different jobs and sectors. It is not easy for foreign workers to leave their home and family behind to work in another country so that they can provide a better life for their loved ones. It is only right that we take care of their well-being.
 
5. It takes many helping hands to do so. Other than having a comprehensive legislation and regulatory framework which we strictly enforce, the Ministry of Manpower, or MOM, work closely with partners such as the MWC and other stakeholders to safeguard the well-being of our foreign workers. Last October, we launched the Settling-In Programme (SIP) which MWC currently manages. The programme instructors conduct classes in the foreign workers’ native languages and use case studies to better illustrate key messages to the workers. Foreign workers who went through the SIP shared that they found the SIP enjoyable and beneficial.

2018 Foreign Worker Survey

6. Besides education, MOM regularly seeks feedback from the foreign workers to better understand their employment experiences. Last year, MOM commissioned an independent survey company to conduct a comprehensive survey on the employment experiences of foreign workers in Singapore. A total of 3,000 foreign workers, specifically 2,500 work permit holders and 500 S Pass holders, were surveyed. A similar survey was last conducted in 2014. 

Most Foreign Workers Satisfied with Working in Singapore

7. The 2018 survey found that most foreign workers in Singapore continue to rate their working experiences in Singapore favourably. Similar to the 2014 survey findings, close to 9 in 10 foreign workers were satisfied with working in Singapore. A similar proportion would recommend Singapore to their friends and relatives as a place for work. The workers found Singapore to be a safe and secure country; they were happy to earn higher salaries and enjoy better living conditions as compared to their home countries.  More than 90% planned to continue working in Singapore after completing their contracts. 

8. I am also heartened that majority of the respondents felt that MOM had done well in protecting foreign workers. Most of them also found it easy to approach MOM for help, if they faced employment issues or experienced any unfair behaviour at work.

Continued Efforts to Ensure All Foreign Workers Receive Their In-Principle Approval (IPA) Letters

9. Our survey also found that 85% of non-Malaysian foreign workers indicated that they received their In-Principle Approval letter or IPA prior to coming to Singapore. The IPA is an important set of documents that contains key employment information, for example, the basic salary details and occupation of the foreign worker. Therefore, foreign workers should receive them in advance so that they can make an informed decision whether to take up the job in Singapore. 

10. To ensure that all foreign workers receive their IPA before they come to Singapore, MOM has stepped up our outreach and enforcement efforts. Employers and employment agencies are reminded to send the IPA to the foreign workers before they come to Singapore. Foreign workers are also required to bring their IPA to the SIP. For those who do not have their IPA, their employer’s details will be surfaced to MOM for further action.

11. These efforts have shown to be effective. MOM’s recent checks found that 97% of foreign workers had their IPA with them when they attended the SIP in February to April 2019. For those who did not have their IPAs with them, MWC gave them a copy at the SIP. In addition, MOM issued advisory letters to their employers. These FWs were asked if they received their IPA in full from employers. Employers of the small minority of FWs who said that they had not, were subject to investigations. As the SIP will be progressively extended to three other sectors by end of this year, it will be an effective touch-point for MOM to check if employers are complying with the requirement. We will continue with our efforts to ensure that all foreign workers receive their IPA before they arrive in Singapore.

12. MOM is releasing the full survey findings today. I am encouraged that our system and efforts, together with our tripartite partners, have largely been effective in safeguarding the well-being and interests of the foreign workers in Singapore.

MWC Recreation Club

13. Besides ensuring that foreign workers have positive employment experiences, we also support the social and recreational needs of the foreign worker community. We are now gathered at the MWC Recreation Club @ Soon Lee (MWCRC), previously known as Soon Lee Recreation Centre. The new MWCRC, which will be launched later this year, will be a one-stop lifestyle and services hub for foreign workers. It will give foreign workers access to a variety of essential services and goods, such as grocery, banking, telecommunication, close to where they live. There will also be programmes, activities and events organised for foreign workers and free use of sports facilities like cricket fields, futsal courts and Sepak Takraw courts. In addition, the MWCRC will run a training institute to provide training courses for foreign workers in the coming years. 

Conclusion 

14. In closing, let me again convey our heartfelt appreciation for the contributions of foreign workers, and congratulations to MWC for reaching the 10th year anniversary milestone. Let us continue to work together to make Singapore a better place to work and live in. 

15. Thank you.