The difficulties faced by foreign workers in Singapore seeking alternative jobs — even when permitted to do so by the Ministry of Manpower — were highlighted in a story in The New Paper 24 March 2017. The focus was on the men from HBB Engineering and related company C-Plus Engineering, featured in our post MOM makes U-turn after saying it can’t much help HBB workers.

The New Paper reported that

While the workers have received a portion of their pay, some have been out of work since January after their work permits were cancelled by their employers.

Though the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) informed them that they had two weeks to approach any employment agency for help, the workers have not been able to find alternative employment.

Their Special Passes will expire soon and if they can’t find new jobs by then, they will have to go home to face creditors.

Interestingly, the newspaper also reported this:

Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) chairman Yeo Guat Kwang told TNP that, while the centre is able to actively source for employment for the workers through its network of industry associations, the “success rate is generally not high” …

He suggested that there was a need to “improve our system to better assist and facilitate migrant workers to secure alternative employment.”

TWC2 has been pointing this out for years. Any policy aimed at retaining experienced workers in Singapore has to be accompanied by raising barriers to new workers coming in. Otherwise employers will prefer to hire “fresh” workers for two chief reasons:

(a) New workers are perceived to be more submissive (because they’re in even higher levels of debt due to exorbitant recruitment costs for first-timers) and can therefore be more easily exploited;

(b) Since the hiring of “fresh” workers takes place outside Singapore (unlike hiring of already-in-Singapore workers like the HBB men featured) it becomes possible for employers to pocket a portion of the “agent fees” as profit, without breaking Singapore law.