In the next phase of the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) push to raise housing standards for foreign workers, an outreach drive will be mounted in July to define for foreign workers the kind of housing they should expect for themselves in Singapore.
Roadshows featuring skits and publicity materials in their native languages are planned to encourage foreign workers to blow the whistle on errant employers who fail to meet the housing standards. They will be informed of a hotline number to call if a complaint needs to be made.
The outreach drive will also educate foreign workers on the basic requirements that their accommodation should meet such as having clean toilets and bathrooms and it should also not be overcrowded.
Previous efforts in recent years have focused on employers and dormitory operators. These groups have been updated on the changes to regulations on foreign-worker housing and given suggestions on how to improve living conditions for their workers.
Enforcement has also played a part, with MOM sending warning letters, imposing fines and prosecuting 4,500 employers for failing to meet the minimum requirements for foreign worker housing between 2009 and 2011. Dormitory operators and employers are bound by law to house foreign workers in facilities which meet legal requirements in land use, structural integrity, fire safety and hygiene and sanitation. Those who fail to do so can be fined up to $5,000 or jailed up to six months or both for each worker housed in unacceptable conditions.
There has been some measure of success in these engagement efforts. MOM says that the overall standard of foreign worker housing has gone up and the number of employers prosecuted has come down. In 2011, 1,000 employers were taken to task for failing to meet standards, a decrease from the 1,800 employers prosecuted in 2009. The number of foreign workers relocated by MOM to approved dormitories has also fallen from 18,800 in 2009 to 8,000 the previous year. This follows the sting felt by errant employers who were made to pay for relocating their workers in better-run dormitories.
Mr Alan Lum, head of MOM’s Housing Enforcement Branch said that his team already receives tip-offs on poor housing conditions from government agencies, the public and some foreign workers. Now, they seek to receive more feedback from the foreign workers. He added, “Accommodation may not be a priority for many workers here. Many just want to work and earn money for their families, but it doesn't mean they shouldn't be given proper housing. We want to send them the message that they are entitled to a good living environment and that they should let us know when their living conditions are not meeting the standards.”
Read the ST article “Drive to Ensure Foreign Workers Get Proper Housing”.
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