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Worries over agent's fees add to hardship

But Chinese bus drivers say the thousands of dollars they paid their agents to work here is a fair deal. -ST
Lee Jian Xuan

Wed, Dec 12, 2012
The Sunday Times

SINGAPORE - Ever since arriving in Singapore in July last year, Mr Li has been surviving on $6 a day.

The bus driver - who did not want to give his full name or identify which company he works for - has to live frugally because he not only has to send money back to his wife and three children in China, but also has to pay off the hefty 25,000 yuan (S$5,000) employment fee that he had incurred to get his job.

It was what a Chinese recruitment agency had charged him to get the job, process documents and buy a one-way ticket to Singapore.

For the past 1 1/2 years, the Henan native has not eaten anything more than a simple bowl of noodles or rice with mixed vegetables for lunch.

Drivers from China typically start with monthly salaries of around $1,100, excluding overtime, and, like most foreign workers, try to spend as little as possible.

Mr Li says: "I paid so much money to get here, so I have to save every cent I can."

Even then, he adds, it took him more than a year to break even.

Some of his fellow countrymen take a lot longer - two years or more - because they spend on cigarettes, smartphones and even iPads, he said.

Yet many of the applicants at a recent recruitment drive for bus drivers in China say the thousands of dollars that they have paid their agents is a fair deal.

I think it's about 26,000 to 28,000 yuan, I'm not sure," says Mr Zhang Yong, 33. "But it's worth the money."

 
 
 
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