Black and white: How do workers know the importance of the IPA?

By Nicholas Lee, based on interviews in July 2018 Today’s article takes a little step back to explore how variances in culture and social experience affect the way foreign workers understand and handle paper documentation, processes and rules in Singapore. As locals know all too well, Singapore is famous for its strict adherence to “Black...

Lack of functioning transfer market makes skills retention elusive

By Alston Ng, based on interviews in June 2018 About a month ago when Rifat (not his real name) showed up at TWC2, he was evidently distressed by the prospect of repatriation. Having resolved a salary dispute with his former employer, Rifat was left to his own devices as he embarked on a so-far unsuccessful...

Toes are cheap

Polash is well-dressed and carries himself with self-assurance. He’s been a responsible son for ten years, working in Singapore supporting his parents, brother and sister in Bangladesh. But now he’s in limbo, waiting for his injury compensation claim to conclude. Your writer looks at him more closely, but cannot tell where he’s been injured. “Three...

Government made Rony stay in Singapore, his marriage destroyed

In the second half of 2017, Sikdar Rony lodged two complaints with the Ministry of Manpower. One was over unpaid salary and the other was about having been made to pay a kickback in order to get a job transfer. His unpaid salary case eventually went against him. His evidence was rather incomplete and he...

Hired as scaffolder, safety-trained as painter, made to work as grinder

By Koh Jie Min, based on an interview in June 2018 Balal comes across as soft spoken when I meet him for this interview. He gives me a wry smile as he points to two long, white scars on his fingers, and recounts his tale. It’s a not unheard-of story: Leaving his wife and two...

For men from a poor country, choice is a mirage

In June 2018, TWC2 volunteer Alston Ng went around asking Bangladeshi workers, “Why did you choose to come to Singapore to work?” The words “neoliberal capitalism” are rarely heard in Singapore, but its message has nonetheless found a faithful following among Singaporeans. Markets are best optimised when left to run by itself, because the exercise...

The thing that most irks him? “MOM take my passport”

By Ng Zuxiang, based on an interview in July 2018 You have a carefully trimmed goatee. You are 26 years old. You have come from Bangladesh to Singapore as the job opportunities and pay here would likely be better than at home. You came to earn a living on which your family back home can...

Policy brief 2018, no. 3: Require standard employment contracts

In the third of our policy briefs for 2018, Transient Workers Count Too recommends that it should be mandatory for work permit holders to first sign a Standard Employment Contract (SEC) even before a work permit application is made. The SEC should set out all the key employment terms, and these should be in accordance...

Listen as peeved MOM officer flames out in phone call

A Bangladeshi worker Rimon (not his real name) received this phone call (audio below) from a case officer of the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). As you will hear, the officer was telling Rimon off for not returning to the company dormitory as earlier instructed. As penalty for disobedience, Rimon would be repatriated forthwith. The tone...

“Too late, no claim”. Miah Uzzah heads home with five years of losses

By Grace Chua, based on an interview in June 2018 Miah Md Uzzal is heading home. In the previous few weeks, he was on a mission to seek compensation for the salary underpayment he suffered for five years. Sitting at one of the restaurants that provide TWC2’s clients with free meals, Miah appears easy-going and...