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The COVID-19 has so far shown a lot of social issues and discussions on everyone’s mind, at least it brought us to really think, about what were going on in our daily life, which we took it for granted, most frequent discussed subject is the plight of the foreign workers in Singapore

One hot topic in every one's mind 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

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As MOH Press Statement showed majority of the cases were in the dormitories, where most of the residents are the foreign workers who come to Singapore to work.

Social Media had a a lot posts and commented about the conditions in the dormitories, and there are not shortage of negative comments about the foreign workers.

However, how many of us do 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 .

We will not go into details of these, neither are we going to comment.

There are a lot of comments in the social media.

Comments in Social Media

You can find comments in the social medias as follows:

  • Facebook,
  • Whatsapp,
  • Twitter,
  • Instagram,
  • Telegram,
  • or whatever social media channels you are used to surfing..

You can draw your own conclusion based on whatever you know and read

Let's learn 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.

Third party account of migrant worker experience.

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.

Merlion Icon of Singapore @cheeshi

The Journey Begins

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, some agents  told them , that 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 when the Singapore Agent met him at the nice airport called Changi Airport.

Changi Control Tower @cheeshi

To make it to Singapore, some of them incurred so many debts, having to pay the home agent, as well as the Singapore Agents who charged the big amount for bringing them in.

The reality and the fantasy

Every one thought the foreign workers earn a good salary by coming to work in Singapore.

Especially In the construction industries.

Since the employer who hired him provide almost every thing. Therefore the foreign workers have sufficient money to remit back to their home countries.

So that was what every one in the public thought. 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 if you applied for the two Passes.

The workers from the above mentioned countries could not apply for the work permit.

Conditions for hiring a worker from oversea?

Based on the requirement of Ministry of Man Power of Singapore (MOM), before a company brings in worker from the foreign country, the followings need to be done.

  • the employer has to apply for necessary papers,
  • Include a copy of the employment contract which clearly state the salary offered
  • Salary to the new foreign worker is SGD $ 2,400, the minimum salary scale for the S-Pass, you can check the criteria of S-Pass in this link,

Now the foreign worker thought he would be paid SGD $ 2,400 per month for working in Singapore.

SGD $2,400 will be quite a substantial amount for them back home.

This will help to ease his financial burden at home.

The different between Ideal and Reality

As I mentioned earlier, sometime the ideal is not the reality, and the truth hurt.

The reality does not conform with the ideal, but confirm it.

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.

How much does a worker make per month?

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

When he reached Singapore and reported to the employer, direct from the Changi Airport, his boss most probably told him 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 the employer told him his monthly would be SGD $ 1,000. This was similar to the modus operandi of a decided case in this link.

What most Human Resource (HR) will do?

  • Then the HR would inform him,
  • 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 MOM issued the S Pass, and
  • to go for medical check up, he would have to take leave to do so,
  • and since he would not be working, HR will deduct his salary
  • for being absent from work.
  • Assuming if the medical check up took one day,
  • then HR will deduct one day pay from his salary for the month.

After a few days when the medical report was ready, and he need to go and collect the report, and submit to MOM, again he needs to take leave of absent, and again, the HR would deduct his salary.

Dormitory/Accommodation Charges

Since he would most probably stay in the dormitory, the employer arranged that accommodation for the new worker, 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 company will deduct the rental paid to the dormitory from his salary.

The deduction will include
  • the bed rental,
  • service charge,
  • laundry service and
  • whatever charges the dormitory has.

From the above, we can see, in the first year or two,  the foreign worker financial situation is not glossy after all..

Working Hours

Now on the working hours, the followings are some of the situations:

  • 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, employers expect the workers to work long hours, and
  • if they are absent from work for even an hour,
  • Employers will deduct their salary,
  • on the other hand, even though they work beyond the normal 8 hours,
  • the employers will not pay them for the overtimes put in,
  • the employer would claim the contract stated that clearly,

For foreign workers working in the construction industry, if the authority such as MOM, NEA or others penalize the company for any delay in completion of work or fines.

What would the company do?

  • The usual practice is to deduct the salary from the workers,
  • The workers would take the blame for the faults,
  • 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.

Quote on Reality and Perception

To quote a message I came across in Quara. Com

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.

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, to consider, before they think this is the way to escape poverty.

For Those Who Have Made It, What Are The Options?

For those who had made it,

  • 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.
  • A good life lesson for them,
  • Make them the wiser,
  • Enrich their life
  • Some change their employers
  • Other Companies may offer a better deal for them
  • The deals may be better than the deal of first two years.

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.

What future foreign workers need to look out for?

Potential workers 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
  • 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.

Alternative Solutions For Would Be Foreign Workers

People who are still in the above mentioned countries, you may want to consider other options such as

  • 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.
  • Tech savvy workers can learn new knowledge easily
  • better for them to embark on online training,
  • Use internet to earn some passive income

Perhaps they can look at this WA website, and learn some good lessons on doing internet business and subsequently achieving financial freedom.

In Conclusion

If you have any interesting pictures and views about this COVID-19 in term of social impacts on foreign workers, and wish to share your views, feel free to do so in the comments section.

I welcome your positive feedback and opinion, time being, stay safe and stay healthy.