Big foreign worker dorms losing out

DORMITORIES are seeing a sharp drop in business as companies move their foreign workers out of big purpose-built dorms in favour of cheaper options on or near their work sites.

Dorm bosses say that there are at least 5,000 empty beds, and business has been getting poorer.

This is a sudden turn in the state of affairs from just a year ago, when dorm bosses had long waiting lists of employers wishing to house workers in big purpose-built dorms with facilities such as foodcourts and basketball courts.

Now, dorm bosses are blaming firms for the empty beds, saying they are moving workers to construction sites and factory-converted dorms which are dirtier.

Construction bosses, in turn, are blaming dorm operators for setting fees at too high a price.

To date, there are about 40 dorms offering 200,000 beds for foreign workers.

Another nine will be built in the next two years, adding 100,000 more beds. But even before those have been added, Dormitory Association of Singapore president Kelvin Teo said that business has already dropped sharply.

“Business is definitely not as good as before,” Teo said.

Part of the reason for this exodus is that more construction firms have been given permission to set up quarters on the sites of major building projects.

Tiong Seng Contractors director Derick Pay said firms like his are grateful that they are being allowed to house workers on site. It reduces traffic congestion around the area, seeing as workers do not need to be bused in. It also increases efficiency and cuts costs.

“We can reduce two to three hours of travelling time since workers live and work at the construction site,” he said.

The Manpower Ministry and National Development Ministry said in a statement that “proximity to workplace, convenience and costs” are considered by employers when deciding on housing for workers.

“Employers can house them in a variety of accommodation, such as purpose-built dorms, converted industrial premises and quarters on construction sites”, they said, as long as these meet rules that “ensure the safety and well-being of the occupants”. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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