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HOME’s response to ‘52,000 cleaners set for better training pay as licensing scheme takes hold’

Dear Sir,

I refer to the article “52,000 cleaners set for better training, pay as licensing scheme takes hold.” While the accreditation scheme’s $1000 basic salary requirement will increase the incomes of Singaporean cleaners, HOME is concerned that migrant workers have been left out. Local cleaners are not the only ones who need a boost to their income, as there are many migrant Chinese, Malaysians and Bangladeshis who work in this sector as well. In our experience, many of them earn below the $1000 basic salary mandated by the accreditation scheme.

Bangladeshi workers contracted by Town Councils to clean HDB estates are among the worst paid of the lot. Their salaries can be as low as $2 per hour, and many of them work more than 12 hours a day without days off. Our interviews with migrant workers in the cleaning sector also reveal that they are expected to put in much longer hours and work more days than local employees. This latest minimum wage floor is thus merely going to incentivise the hiring of foreign workers at a minimum cost and not address the fact that cleaners in general are paid inadequately.

As a nation that prides itself on meritocracy and equal opportunity for all excluding migrant workers from this scheme is not consistent with these values.  The government appears willing to regulate the entire employment market to the extent it wants controls in place but then looks to exclude foreign workers from the employee protections it otherwise deems appropriate. We believe the government should not distinguish between migrant and local workers as they are both performing the same services for Singapore.

In wake of the Little India riot last year, there has been a lot of discussion about integrating migrant workers. But integration is not just about policing undesirable behaviour and addressing social ills. It requires us to treat those who are marginalized as equals and implementing measures which combat discrimination. Ensuring migrant workers are paid equally as locals is one of many things we can do and HOME urges the government labour movement and employers to review the accreditation scheme so that it is truly inclusive.

Jolovan Wham (范国瀚)

Executive Director
Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) 情义之家