Do MOM’s injury statistics hide more than they reveal?

Posted by on May 15, 2018 in Articles, Facts, research, analysis

A TWC2 research volunteer recently unearthed some interesting statistics regarding workplace injuries in the construction industry.

Compared to other industrialised nations, the ratio of construction injury to overall injury rate and the ratio of construction injuries to fatalities is relatively low in Singapore. In the construction sector, the ratio of injuries to fatalities was 82:1 for Singapore in 2015. This is much lower compared to the ratios of 373:1 for Sweden, 474:1 across 28 EU countries, 780:1 for New Zealand, 712:1 for Belgium, 1103:1 for Switzerland and 1428:1 for the Netherlands for the same year.

Fatalities are hard to hide. Therefore, that side of the ratio is a sort of fixed anchor. But non-fatal injuries are another matter. The reported numbers are subject to definitions and to the push and pull of incentives to report or not to report.

Our Ministry of Manpower says that our reporting criteria are aligned with international practices, and closely mirror EU regulations (see this report of Parliamentary sitting on 19 Feb 2018). If that’s the case, then variance in definitions shouldn’t be a problem, but the way incentives operate in Singapore must be very different from Europe.

Finland, whose population is approximately a million less than Singapore has injury numbers that are 10.63 times higher. In 2015, Finland had 127,316 workplace injuries while Singapore had 12,285 incidences.

These numbers suggest one of three possibilities: Either our workplaces and construction industry are extraordinarily safe, or there is considerable under-reporting in Singapore, or there are mountains of false injury claims in all those other countries that go undetected by their governments. Which of the three is most likely?

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
means.

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