International News

Singapore: migrant workers bear brunt of COVID-19 

Although Singapore early on looked like it had the spread of the coronavirus under control, it has seen a dramatic spike in recent weeks, with thousands of new cases linked to clusters in foreign worker dormitories.  Since March 17, Singapore's total cases grew from 266 to 12,075 on April 25, and is now at 14,951.  To control the spread, the government has attempted to shut down the dormitories, test workers and move symptomatic patients into quarantine facilities. But this has resulted in hundreds of thousands of trapped workers, living in extremely cramped conditions that make social distancing almost impossible. There are usually between 10 and 20 workers sharing each dormitory room. Government regulations require the rooms provide 4.5 square meters per occupant - but this is not enough to ensure proper distancing. There are about 200,000 workers in 43 dormitories currently in Singapore. 

There are approximately 1.4 million migrant workers in Singapore who come mainly from South and Southeast Asia. As housekeepers, domestic helpers, construction workers and manual laborers, they are essential to keeping Singapore functioning - but they are also amongst the lowest paid and most vulnerable people in the city. Working in a city without a minimum wage, they earn a fraction of the salaries of white-collar employees. The average migrant worker earns about US$400 to $465 a month, compared to the average Singaporean monthly salary of $3,077. 

Some argue though that these workers are better off in Singapore than they would be in their own countries. The government has said that they should be paid, is providing them with food and good wifi in the dormitories, and providing free medical treatment if they are diagnosed with COVID-19. Nevertheless, these workers are concerned and reports are that the workers are suffering from anxiety and stress.  
Read more: Singapore's migrant workers are suffering the brunt of the country's coronavirus outbreak. CNN  

Hong Kong: Migrant women most affected by pandemic 

The coronavirus has been a heavy blow for workers everywhere with emergency restrictions, company closures and loss of income. But the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of the working class are shouldering the biggest burden. In Hong Kong that is the 400,000 migrant workers mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines. They face a vastly increased workload, longer hours and even more restrictions on their freedom and privacy.
Read more: Migrant women carry bigger burden during pandemic, ChinaWorker

 

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