Should Singaporeans be blamed for the COVID-19 spread at foreign worker dormitories?

TL;DR – Stop the blame game, it is not helping the situation.

If you have been following the news at all you’d know that recently Nominated MP Anthea Ong asked if the Government would consider issuing an apology to the foreign workers under lockdown in dormitories during her parliamentary debate.

In response to the Nominated MP’s debate speech, ST forum writer Andy Chew Teck Huat suggested that the onus to apologise for the state these workers should be on all Singaporeans since Singaporeans want everything to be cheap at the expense of these workers.

The forum writer also wrote,

“Singaporeans should not pretend that we care for them now because thousands of these workers are infected.

Where were we when the situation was all right? Were we ever concerned about their living conditions? I am definitely guilty of that.”

He pointed out that there were Singaporeans who were bothered when certain dormitories were proposed to be built where they live and if these Singaporeans had cared about these migrant workers in the first place, they should have welcomed the idea and embraced these workers with open arms.

Urging for Singaporeans to stop being “hypocrites” and blaming the Government, he concluded his letter by reminding Singaporeans that real test of our concern for these workers is after this crisis is over and that he hopes that all Singaporeans will still care for every one of these 300,000 fellow human beings.

Another ST forum writer, Lee Kek Chin, must have read Chew’s forum letter and wrote another letter in response to the forum writer.

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In Lee’s opinion, the nation does not need to apologise to the foreign workers.

Instead, Lee thinks that dormitory operators and employers should bear the consequences and be taken to task if there is any violation related to the foreign workers’ living conditions since it is within the purview of the employers and workers.

He also noted that if the foreign workers have any grievances, there are many avenues that they can turn to. For instance, the Ministry of Manpower’s foreign manpower management division that oversees workplace standards for foreign workers and enforces foreign workforce policies. There are also several migrant worker organisations, such as the Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC), that can help these workers address their needs.

While we’re posting on social media, MWC is working on masks and sanitisers for foreign workers

While Lee recognises the contributions of the foreign workers, he also reminded Singaporeans that:

  1. Foreign workers are here to make enough money so that they can return to their home countries to lead a more comfortable life.
  2. Foreign workers are not underpaid or short-changed (as compared to back in their home countries). In fact, it is a win-win situation for foreign workers and Singapore.
  3. It is evident that the Government cares about the foreign workers – confined foreign workers get paid, have their medical needs and meals taken care of by the Government. Whereas in other countries, these costs are borne by their employers or embassies.

He then concluded his letter by asking readers to be fair to Singaporeans and urge for people to put a stop to the Singapore-bashing over the coronavirus outbreak.

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You may read the full letter here.

Not sure about you, but I think he might be right.

Stop the blame game and let the Government do what they need to for now to fight the immediate fire. After all, we have Manpower Minister Josephine Teo’s word that more will be done for our foreign workers, and that the issue of overcrowding and better living conditions for the migrant workers would be dealt with in due course.

Jo Teo gives her word to work on raising standards of foreign worker dorms after COVID-19 crisis


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Gabrielle Teo

Author Gabrielle Teo

I read lots, and I also spend an indecent amount of time trying to get my mostly unpopular opinions published. Oh, I argue a lot with fellow Singaporeans who complain incessantly about Singapore too.

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