According to Reuters’s interview with a Bangladeshi construction worker in Singapore, he earned only S$18 a day and S$3 an hour for overtime. The foreign worker also borrowed S$17,000 in total to pay an employment agent before coming to work in Singapore, but he is left with a S$6,000 debt after he was dismissed by his Singapore employer.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) shrugged away responsibility for foreign workers who paid exorbitant agent fees, which could be up to 51 months of the total salaries of a foreign worker. MOM wrote in an email response to Reuters:
“The agency fees foreign workers incur in their home countries are beyond our jurisdiction. We hope that source countries would do more to address the issue of high agency fees incurred, and we will refer cases to their embassies here for follow up where appropriate.”
The extreme poverty state of foreign workers was the primary factor behind the 2013 Little India’s riot. The rioters, who were all foreign workers, were unhappy that they were being exploited by their Singapore employers and that the government offer no help or feedback avenue at all. Rioters targeted the police and torched only government vehicles, while no private vehicle was touched in the chaos. The Singapore government however went into denial, blaming the riot to a group of “drunkards” and in their official response, banned alcohol in the vicinity.
According to the Reuters reporter, foreign workers work 12 hours a day with only one day off a month, and they live in an overcrowded 12-to-one room dormitory. The modern day slaves however said that the conditions are still better than Bangladesh. Nonetheless, the Singapore government exploits this third world mentality of foreign workers to legally abuse and enslave foreigners from third world countries.
Singapore employers across all industries are addicted to cheap foreign labour. The malpractice that started in 2005 shortly after Lee Hsien Loong took charge of government, spread to middle class jobs like engineers and accountants. Foreigners from third world countries like Philippines and India easily get a middle class job in Singapore, depressing wages and replacing the local workforce. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong however called the influx of foreigners as a norm of “globalisation”.
In the past 13 years since Lee Hsien Loong became PM, Singapore’s population grew 32.5% from 4.3 million in 2004 to 5.7 million in 2016. Low birth rate was attributed as an excuse, however the real news is access to cheap foreign labour and consolidating votes from new citizens to stay in power. Every year, about 20,000 foreigners take up Singapore citizenship, and a 5-year-period election translates to 100,000 new votes for the ruling party PAP.