On struggling for migrant workers' rights in Singapore

25 August 2021


Singapore relies on the labour of low-wage migrant workers from the Asian region. John Gee speaks about the continuing struggles to maintain foreign workers´ rights and wellbeing.

Approximately a third of Singapore´s active labour force is non-resident (Ministry of Manpower, 2021), meaning they are neither Singapore citizens nor permanent residents. Of those, only a small portion are so called “foreign talent”, meaning skilled workers and professionals in white collar jobs. The majority are foreigners employed to do menial work in the construction industry, in shipyards, or in the service sector, such as domestic work in people´s homes.

Much of Singapore's shiny skyscrapers, award-winning architecture, public housing, and world-class infrastructure was built by foreign workers on low wages. Many women in Singapore have found the freedom to venture into better paying jobs outside the home because the burden of domestic work has shifted to women from low-income countries.

In this episode, Mamta Sachan Kumar speaks to John Gee about the continuing struggles to maintain foreign workers´ rights and wellbeing in a country that so dearly relies on their labour. With Mamta, John speaks about his experiences as a practitioner.

John Gee was involved in the planning stages of Transient Workers Count 2 (TWC2) since 2002, and acted as the organisation´s president from 2007 to 2011.

Mamta Sachan Kumar is PhD candidate at the School of Culture, History & Language at The Australian National University.

TWC2 on the web: twc2.org.sg/

Referenced report:
Ministry of Manpower (2021) "Singapore Manpower Statistics in Brief 2021", Manpower Research and Statistics Department: Singapore. Available at https://stats.mom.gov.sg/iMAS_PdfLibrary/mrsd-msib2021.pdf#search=migrant%20workers , access 25.08.2021.

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