The COVID-19 has so far shown a lot of social issues and discussions on everyone’s mind, at least it brought to really think about what were going on in our daily life which we took it for granted.
One of the topics in almost everyone’s mind and hot topic is the foreign workers whose infection appeared to make everyone worried that Singapore was one of the epic center of the pandemic of COVID-19
As at 9th May 2020, the total numbers of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Singapore was 22460, you can go to this site to see more details -https://www.moh.gov.sg/news-highlights/details/256-more-cases-discharged-753-new-cases-of-covid-19-infection-confirmed
As can be noticed from the MOH Press Statement that majority of the cases were in the dormitories where most of the residents are the foreign workers who come to Singapore to work.
A lot have been said and commented in social media about the conditions in the dormitories and there are not shortage of negative comments about the foreign workers.
However, how many of us really put ourselves in the foreign workers’ shoes and look from their point of view?
I like the Facebook post where the speaker said about the plight of the foreign workers, you can see the Facebook post here - https://www.facebook.com/subramanianrengasamy.r/videos/3054802751243783/.
Let’s not go into details of these, neither are we going to comment on whether the comments you all find in the social media, be it Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Instagram or whatever social media channels you are used to surfing and you can draw your own conclusion based on whatever you know and see.
This is about the plight of the foreign workers who make an effort to come from their home countries, be it Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar or Nepal and China to come to Singapore, hoping to earn some money so they can provide a better living conditions for their families back home.
This is a third party account of what a migrant worker encountered, I happened to know him and close with him and treated him as one of my friend, it may not be the same with other migrant workers, or it was just sheer bad luck on his part that he worked for a monster employer.
Perhaps, for those in the countries mentioned above, they may want to think twice before they decided to embark on this journey to financial freedom which they think they can achieve in Singapore if that is what they are thinking.
For some of them, in order to take that first step to come out from the comfort of the home country with the family, they have to borrow some money and pay to the local home agents to come over to Singapore.
To them, it is a new beginning and which they were told they could make enough money and good money which they might not be able to make in their home countries, so they thought.
However, the reality of this harsh truth strike them when they touch down in Singapore and were met by the Singapore agent at the nice airport called Changi Airport.
To make it to Singapore, some of them incurred so many debts, having to pay the home agent as well as the big amount charged by the Singapore agent for bringing them in.
Every one thought the foreign workers earn a good salary by coming to work in Singapore, mainly in the construction industries and since almost every thing is provided by the employer who hired him, so the foreign workers have sufficient money to remit back to their home countries.
So that was what every one in the public thought since the government said all foreign workers from the above mentioned countries could only apply for S Pass or Employment Pass and there is a minimum salary linked to the two Passes, and the workers from the above mentioned countries could not apply for the work permit.
Based on the requirement of Ministry of Man Power of Singapore (MOM), before a worker can be brought in from the home country, the employer has to apply for necessary papers and also include a copy of the employment contract which clearly state the salary offered to the to-be-hired worker is SGD $ 2,400 the minimum salary scale for the S-Pass, you can check the criteria of S-Pass in this link, https://www.mom.gov.sg/passes-and-permits/s-pass
Now the foreign worker thought he would be paid SGD $ 2,400 per month for working in Singapore, which will be quite a substantial amount for them back home and hopefully this will help to ease his financial burden at home.
As I mentioned earlier, sometime the ideal is not the reality and the truth hurt. The reality does not conform with to the ideal, but confirm it, as The renowned French Novelist Gustave realized it well and made everyone know that Reality does not conform to the ideal but confirms it.
In the Facebook link I shared earlier in this article, the speaker was doing a survey on how much a foreign worker was making a month, and the result showed the amount was quite low and he was quite right about the amount.
Let’s have a closer look at how much actually a foreign worker makes per month.
Based on his contract submitted to MOM it should be SGD $ 2,400.00
Then the reality hit home, when he reaches Singapore and reported to the employer direct from the Changi Airport, he most probably would be told by his new boss that his salary would only be SGD $1,500 per month the most if not SGD $1,000.
So every month, when he has his salary, he would have to withdraw SGD $ 1,400 and pay back to the boss in cash assuming he was told his monthly would be SGD $ 1,000. This was similar to the modus operandi of a decided case in this link- https://www.mom.gov.sg/newsroom/press-releases/2016/0708-company-director-fined-21000-for-falsely-declaring-salaries-in-work-pass-applications
Then the HR would inform him that HR needed to deduct the air fare for the flight from his home country to Singapore, more bad news for the foreign ensue, HR would inform him that he needed to go for medical checkup before the S Pass could be issued, and to go for medical check up, he would have to take leave to do so, and since he would not be working, his salary would be deducted for being absent from work. So if the medical check up took one day, then one day pay would be deducted.
After a few days when the medical report was ready and he would need to go and collect the report and submit to MOM, again he would have to take leave of absent and having his salary deducted.
Since he would most probably stay in the dormitory arranged by the employer, the employer supposedly paid the dormitory operator for his workers staying in the dormitory as per his contract of engagement.
HR would then tell the foreign worker that the rental paid to the dormitory would be deducted from his salary, that would be including the bed rental, service charge, laundry service and whatever charges the dormitory has.
So we can see the foreign worker financial situation is not glossy after all in the first year or two of his employment in Singapore.
Now on the working hours, they have to work long hours and most of the time beyond the legal working hours per day as stipulated in the Employment Act of Singapore and this is very common in Singapore, workers are expected to work long hours and if they are absent from work for even hour, their salary will be deducted, on the other hand, even they work beyond the normal 8 hours, they would not get paid for the overtimes put in, the employer would claim it was stipulated in the contract.
For foreign workers working in the construction industry, if the company was penalized for any delay in completion of work or fined by MOM or NEA or any authorities, the usual practice would be deducted from the salary from the workers as it would be considered the faults of the workers which resulted in the penalty for the delay or violation of regulations.
So we can see the plight of the foreign workers and their ideal working environment in Singapore which is quite different from the ideal situation.
To quote a message I came across in Quara. Com and I quote “ Yes, undoubtedly the reality does not conform to our perception of what an ideal is but it does confirm what an ideal actually is in its own unique, beautiful and authentic way, perhaps that’s the reason why it is called ‘REAL ITY’. Unquote
I am sharing here the plight of the foreign worker who experienced by one who happened to be my friend and this was what he had narrated to me of what he had encountered.
This could be something for those back home in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Myanmar and the subcontinent of Asia who are contemplating to come to Singapore to work, thinking this is the way to escape poverty.
For those who had made it and enduring the first two years of hardship and saving as much as they could in order to repay the debts borrowed and having some savings to go back to home land after the end of the two years contract, it would be a good life lesson for them and hopefully make them the wiser and enrich their life. For some, they might change their employers and been offered a better deal than the first two years of their adventure in Singapore, some of them move on to a better pasture and finally managed to make some savings and see the light at the end of the tunnels.
For those who want to make the trip, it would be better that they consider their other options such as equip themselves with better knowledge so that they can come here via the Employment Pass which for that status will fetch a better salary than an S- Pass holder, hence the financial burden will be lesser and it would also be easier for them to land a better job after the first contract end if they find the first employer was not to their expectation.
For those still in the above mentioned countries, it would be easier for them to try some online business and earn some passive income to supplement their household requirement instead of just dreaming of the good jobs in Singapore which may not be the case.
Since most of them are quite tech savvy and learning new knowledge seem easy for them, it would be better that they can embark on some online training and make use of the internet to earn some money.
And perhaps they may want to look at this WA website and learn some good lessons on how to gain a footing in internet business and subsequently achieving financial freedom.
If you have any interesting pictures and views about this COVID-19 in term of social impacts and wish to share your views, feel free to do so in the comments section and I welcome your positive feedback and opinion, time being, stay safe and stay healthy.