I WELCOME the long-awaited legislation to regulate and improve the living conditions at foreign worker dormitories ("Tougher rules to raise the bar at large dormitories"; Wednesday).
The new law, however, covers only dormitories with at least 1,000 beds.
So I am concerned over whether conditions at smaller dormitories will improve.
If the intent of the new law is to set baseline standards for dormitory operators, then it should cover all dormitories, especially the smaller ones where living conditions are likely to be less favourable.
Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said that "as more of these purpose-built dorms come on stream, we will also begin to take a stricter view about how workers are housed elsewhere, and therefore you will begin to see a lot more of them shifting towards the purpose-built dorms".
Even if this shift does occur, it will take time.
Conversely, it might also be possible that operators start to build "smaller" dormitories that fall outside the new legislation, so they can be exempted from the stricter regulations.
Wouldn't it be more effective, legislatively and administratively, to have all dorms covered under the new law? Enforcement can then be carried out without ambiguity.
The law could allow some flexibility in the form of exemptions, on a case-by-case basis, for smaller operators that are unable to comply fully owing to practical reasons.
This article was first published on Jan 23, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.