How does the government ensure foreign worker housing standards?

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say lists three other approaches apart from legislation

How does the government ensure foreign worker housing standards?

About two-thirds of Work Permit holders in Singapore live in accommodations not covered by the Foreign Employee Dormitories Act (FEDA), Minister for Manpower Lim Swee Say told Parliament last week. But he clarified that these accommodations are still required to comply with a set of comprehensive regulations and requirements imposed by various agencies.

Such accommodations are not covered by FEDA because of their smaller size relative to large dormitories that can house 1,000 or more workers. FEDA requires these large dormitories to secure licenses from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

The government takes three approaches to ensure that smaller accommodation are up to comparable standards as dormitories, said the minister.

First, the government regularly reviews standards across all accommodation types. “Where appropriate, the minimum standards will be raised to improve the well-being of foreign workers,” according to Lim. For example, he said the ministry started requiring operators of Factory Converted Dormitories (FCDs) to comply with additional conditions such as the provision of WiFi and a sickbay.

The government’s second approach is its conduct of “proactive inspections.” Last month, Lim revealed that MOM conducted “close to 4,000” foreign workers housing inspections between 2014 to 2016. There were 700 inspections in 2014. Last year, there were 1,800.

Lastly, the government takes enforcement actions against employers and dormitory operators who fail to comply with requirements, said Lim.

Last March, Kay Lim Construction & Trading was prosecuted in State Courts for housing its foreign workers in accommodation with unhygienic living conditions. It was also charged with abetting nine other companies in housing their foreign workers in the same unacceptable workers’ quarters, and failing to update the housing address of the foreign workers in the Online Foreign Worker Address Service (OFWAS).


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