In the first for four policy briefs for 2018, Transient Workers Count Too sets out the case for electronic payment of salaries for Work Permit holders.

The paper points out that “Electronic payment of salaries through bank transfer provides a ‘paper trail’ to demonstrate compliance with payment requirements and reduce wage disputes,” and notes that even countries in the Persian Gulf, such as the UAE and Qatar, are ahead of Singapore in this aspect.

Whilst the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has been known to argue that Work Permit holders already have the option to request for electronic payment, the paper stresses that

… workers report that they fail to make such requests because they fear job loss and repatriation. The unequal bargaining power caused by the ease of termination, repatriation, and high agent fee debts renders the request provision ineffective.

That said, electronic payment of salaries via bank is quite common, said to be enjoyed by as many as 70% of Work Permit holders. However,

… based on the cases that come to TWC2 for assistance, nearly all salary complaints arise from companies that pay in cash. This suggests that there are at least irresponsible employers are exploiting the option of cash payment to underpay their workers.

Leaving the option open thus allows less scrupulous employers to take advantage of the fact that the law makes electronic payment optional. This loophole should be closed.

The two-page policy brief (in pdf) can be downloaded by clicking the icon at right.