The name of the devil is process: how regulatory process creates and sustains the disempowerment and injustices faced by migrant labour

Posted by on September 12, 2016 in Articles, Happenings, News, Our Stand


For a few years now, Transient Workers Count Too has been asked to give a talk to journalists gathered at the annual Asia Journalism Fellowship. The following videos are adapted from the talk that Alex Au gave on 8 September 2016.  There were about 20 journalists in TWC2’s Dayspace, from various Asian countries, Pakistan to China.

Part 1 sets out the theme of the talk and explains a few basic facts about the regulation of migrant labour in Singapore:

Part 2 describes a few of the most common abuses that occur at the recruitment stage, and trace them back to process design; more accurately, to how the regulatory process leaves huge gaps for private actors to exploit.

For an example of how much a worker paid to obtain his jobs in Singapore, and how his fees compared to the offered salaries, see this video:

Part 3 discusses the reality faced by workers with respect to salary payments. Clearly, the “nuclear option” given by the regulatory authorities to employers — to terminate a worker at any time and repatriate him — completely annihilates what bargaining power migrant workers might hope to have.

Part 4 touches on the main problems encountered in the work injury compensation process.

Part 5 focusses on the Labour Court and the huge disadvantages the foreign workers face.

Part 6 begins with a general summing up, leading on to a discussion about the difficulties journalists may face in trying to cover this subject:

TWC2 wishes to thank the organisers of the Asia Journalism Fellowship for the opportunity to present this issue to its fellows.

TWC2 is an organization that is dedicated to assisting low-wage migrant workers when they are in difficulty. We are motivated by a sense of fairness and humanity, though our caseload often exceeds our

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