Most foreign workers 'satisfied with S'pore'

SINGAPORE - Nine in 10 foreign workers are satisfied with working and living in Singapore, but there are still areas that can be improved, according to a new survey commissioned by the Migrant Workers' Centre and the Ministry of Manpower.

The survey also found that nine in 10 foreign workers would recommend Singapore as a place to work, citing good pay, good working and living conditions, and a sense of security.

The findings showed a generally positive picture about foreign workers in Singapore, said Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin at an event yesterday to celebrate International Migrants Day, which falls on Dec 18.

"We definitely hear of negative incidents (involving foreign workers) and some of these individual stories can be quite emotive," said Mr Tan. "A survey like that allows us to take a step back and look at the big picture."

The face-to-face survey was conducted by an independent survey firm between March and July this year with some 3,500 work permit holders and 500 S-Pass holders. A similar survey was first conducted in 2011.

There were areas that needed improvement, the survey found. For example, more respondents, compared with 2011, now cited high employment agency fees and poor working and living conditions as reasons why they would not recommend Singapore as a place to work.

Said Mr Tan: "We take the issue of worker housing seriously and one of our key efforts is to provide an adequate supply of housing for our workers."

Over the next few years, there will be more large purpose-built dormitories to address housing needs, he said.

Other areas that needed improvement included the workers' awareness of their rights and certain employment laws.

The survey found that migrant workers were less likely to be aware that they could claim compensation if they suffered permanent disabilities due to work accidents.

Migrant workers were also less likely to receive a physical record of salary payments, the survey found. This would make pay disputes more difficult to resolve, said Mr John Gee, head of research at migrant workers aid group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2).

From 2016, it will be mandatory for employers to provide itemised payslips with information on items such as basic salary and deductions made, said Mr Tan.

Few workers had also received their in-principle letters of approval (IPA) in their native language. These letters, which state the workers' occupation and basic monthly salary, help the workers to decide whether or not to accept employment in Singapore before they leave their country.

The Ministry of Manpower will send letters to employers to remind them to issue IPAs, including a native language copy, to workers while they are still in their home countries, or risk a fine of $10,000.

Migrant worker groups such as TWC2 and the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) welcomed the survey but said more data was needed.

"Data about actual living and working conditions would be more insightful, rather than asking about satisfaction levels, which is a vague and highly subjective concept," said Home executive director Jolovan Wham.

This article was first published on Dec 8, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.