Sub-standard conditions: This zinc-roof hut at a construction site is shared by seven workers. Housing workers in such places is much cheaper than in approved dorms. - The Straits Times / Asia News Network
ERRANT bosses have been listing false addresses on a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) online database while housing their foreign workers in sub-standard conditions.
They declare that the men are living in approved housing such as purpose-built dormitories, while actually putting them up in cheaper places such as shophouses, factory-converted dorms or construction site quarters. It comes down to money, said Debbie Fordyce, a volunteer at welfare group Transient Workers Count Too.
A place at a dorm, with amenities like mini-marts and basketball courts, costs about S$300 (RM767) a month. But housing workers at construction sites can be free, while a month’s stay in a shophouse is about S$200 (RM511).
Industry players said bosses are willing to be dishonest as they know it is difficult for MOM to check.
Short of spot-checks at every dorm, it is hard to verify the addresses of all 771,100 work permit holders, excluding maids who live in their employers’ homes.
“How do you even start to check when there are so many places?” said Jolovan Wham, executive director of the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics. In recent years, he has seen several workers not living at their registered addresses.
Industry players said bosses have managed to abuse the address registration process because of its ease of use.
All they have to do on the Online Foreign Worker Address Service is to log in with their SingPass IDs and passwords, and then key in the addresses and postal codes of their workers’ abodes.
The information will be accepted as long as the dorm listed has not reached its maximum occupancy.
One construction boss said the system is so easy to “cheat” that some employers get clerks to key in postal codes of various dorms in the hope of hitting one that is not fully occupied. “It’s trial and error. The staff will keep trying until they find one which is not full,” he said.
As a result, dorms end up being full according to MOM’s database. Bosses who want to legitimately house their workers there cannot register as the website says places are not available.
“We have to wait a few days for the dorm operators to compare their records with MOM and remove the names of bogus workers,” he said.
There are no official figures on how many foreign workers have fake addresses. But it runs into the hundreds at least, based on estimates by employers and migrant worker activists. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network