The total number of Work Permit holders in Singapore declined by nearly six percent between December 2019 and June 2020. These six months roughly coincide with the Covid-19 pandemic in Singapore including the months of April to June when the number of infections found among migrant workers resident in dormitories was at its peak.

However, the decline can be seen across all industry sectors, not just in the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors (“CMP”) whose workers tend to live in dorms. Plenty of other Work Permit holders, e.g. in manufacturing, landscaping, cleaning and conservancy, and services do not generally live in dorms, and their numbers too declined (by 8.5 percent) — and more dramatically too than among CMP workers (reduced by 4.9 percent). One reason may be that CMP workers were mostly under quarantine during this period, thus even if they wanted to go home, they couldn’t. It would be interesting to see what the next six months’ data shows.

Even among foreign domestic workers, there was a decline, of 3.5 percent. It is hard to know the reason for this. Possibly, they went home as scheduled for their home leave and couldn’t return to Singapore, or there might have been some lay-offs as Singapore households became financially pinched.

Overall, the the total number of Work Permit holders in Singapore as at June 2020 is roughly similar to the number seven years ago in 2013. Among construction workers, we estimate that the number of Work Permit holders in this sector is roughly where it was eight years ago in 2012.

The above data are from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Department of Statistics. If the figures in the table are too small, click here to display it in a separate tab.

Frustratingly, in its latest release, MOM modified its classification system so that the figures for construction sector no longer appear. For June 2020, we are thus unable to provide a comparative figure for construction sector only, thereby breaking the format from earlier years.

Earlier articles giving similar data are:

While MOM provided a comparative figure for CMP for December 2019, it did not do so for earlier years; and we had to trawl through the Department of Statistics’ site to get some of them, and only as far back as 2013.

We urge MOM to be more ready to provide historical series data in a consistent way, in the name of transparency and accountability.