Unlike other studies that tend to be more focussed on a particular issue, e.g. recruitment costs or access to healthcare, this study takes a more inclusive approach, to look at the various costs of migration, as surfaced by migrant workers themselves in face-to-face interviews. It therefore reveals issues that may be missed by other studies, such as how cultural patriarchy adds to their financial and stress burdens, or how language barriers make it hard for workers to establish positive relationships with their superiors.
Confined to workers of Bangladeshi nationality in Singapore, detailed, semi-structured (and therefore more flexible) interviews were conducted with ten of them. The researchers deliberately chose not to select TWC2 clients, as these clients might have circumstances (e.g. salary non-payment or injury) that placed them under particular stress. An interpreter was present at all interviews.
The study, by Terri-Anne Teo, Amirah Amirrudin and Conor Dunne, aimed to shed light on four core questions:
- What are the non-financial difficulties low-waged Bangladeshi migrant workers experience in Singapore?
- What are the implications of these difficulties in everyday life?
- How do migrant workers make sense of these difficulties?
- How can these difficulties be addressed?
For the purposes of this study, ‘non-financial’ difficulties referred to difficulties not solely related to issues of recruitment cost or various forms of wage theft such as salary non-payment and employers receiving kickbacks for contract renewal. Nonetheless, there is overlap between monetary and emotionally-driven hardship.
TWC2 is happy to publish this report, but to avoid any confusion, we wish to state here that the the recommendations contained in the report are the researchers’ own. That said, most of them parallel policy proposals that have been made by TWC2 before. There are however a few where TWC2 would not go as far as the study’s recommendations, e.g.
3.1 Contract terms — where the report calls for stricter limitations on termination of employment and longer contract terms; and
4.5 Religious accommodation — where the report calls for special accommodation for Muslims.