TWC2 has received two research reports from the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit which is based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. They make for sober reading.
In one of them, titled Labour migration from Bangladesh 2013 report, some interesting statistics are provided. Singapore was the second most popular destination country in 2013, with 60,057 work migrants coming here, or 14.02% of the total who left Bangladesh for work in that year. The report notes that unfortunately, there are no statistics of returnees.
Singapore does not publish any breakdown of Work Permit holders by nationality but TWC2 estimates that about one in three of the nearly 400,000 non-domestic Work Permit holders from non-traditional sources are from Bangladesh. That’s about 130,000 Bangladeshis. If 60,000 are coming per year, this in turn suggests that the average length of stay of a worker is only two years — a high rate of churn. As TWC2 has argued for years now, it is not possible for workers to gain enough experience to make a significant contribution to efficiency and productivity in such a short time.
Elsewhere in Labour migration from Bangladesh 2013 report it is also shown that Singapore ranked eighth out of sixteen countries in terms of remittances by value. Saudi Arabia was the top source of remittances, followed by the UAE. No specific figure was given for Singapore, but a bar chart indicates that Singapore contributed only about 3.5% of US$13.83 billion in total remittances in 2013. That works out to about US$484 million, or about S$644 million at exchange rates prevailing end 2013.
The divergence between 14.02% of persons choosing to come to Singapore and only 3.5% of remittances coming from Singapore hints at two possible explanations:
1. Bangladeshi workers in other countries stay much longer on average; their numbers there are much larger than annual movements. To put it in another way, churn is particularly bad in Singapore.
2. Bangladeshi workers in Singapore are relatively poorly-paid, or have much less money (after local expenses) to send back home.
These are areas that cry out for research, but provisionally, if we divide S$644 million by the estimated 130,000 Bangladeshi workers in Singapore, this indicates that the average worker remits $4,934 per year to his family, or about $$413 a month. Based on what we know of salaries among Bangladeshi workers, TWC2 considers this a credible figure.
Although the second report Implications of the Kafala system: need for reform is focussed on the Middle East countries, Singapore too operates a similar labour recruitment and control system, and the abuses highlighted in this report are relevant to Singapore.
PDF versions of the reports can be downloaded by clicking on the images below.