Thursday, July 17, 2014

SINGAPORE:::Drastic reform needed to give foreign workers a fair deal

THE Committee of Inquiry has reported that worker dissatisfaction was not the cause of the Little India riot. However, it did not rule out the possibility of a future riot caused by work or housing woes ("Give foreign workers a fair deal"; July 6).
Even if only a minority of the more than 770,000 foreign workers here are unhappy and trigger a similar incident, it will have a profound impact on law and order here and affect Singapore's reputation as a safe place to live.
No doubt, we need drastic reform.
First, we must eliminate the middlemen who are taking a disproportionate cut from the workers' hard-earned money. The Government must work with the authorities in countries like Bangladesh and India to initiate some direct routes of sourcing workers, as Malaysia is already doing.
Second, the authorities must also work closely with employers, so that they offer foreign workers fair wages similar to what locals are getting. Considering the sheer number of foreign workers here, the authorities cannot stay on the sidelines and leave their wages to crude market forces.
There is no minimum wage in Singapore, but the authorities intervene from time to time to increase wages for poor and vulnerable Singaporeans. This should be extended to foreign workers.
Lastly, we should view foreign workers as human beings, and not tradable commodities, and engage them in our nation building.
Nationality, race, income disparity and gender have created artificial forms of discrimination. Why shouldn't Singapore lead the way to abolish such discrimination and create an inclusive society with equal rights for all?
Atanu Roy

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