Most of the Bangladeshi migrant workers in Singapore are now going through acute hardship as they are getting poor wages, observed a Singaporean migrant rights activist yesterday.
A Bangladeshi has to spend minimum Tk 9 lakh to Tk 10 lakh to ensure a job in Singapore through a recruiting agent who charges a huge amount promising a lucrative job and attractive salary, said Alex Au, treasurer of Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), an NGO which monitors the rights issue of workers in Singapore.
But the reality is now entirely different because it is not possible for the worker to regain the big amount he had to pay the agent by working one or two years, the visiting expert told The Daily Star.
He was attending a two-day Peoples' Global Action (PGA) Forum on Migration, Development and Human Rights in Dhaka University's Lecture Theatre building.
Alex's NGO conducted a survey based on interviews of over 1,000 Bangladeshis in Singapore last year. It found that almost all workers had to pay minimum Tk 3 lakh as skill training costs and Tk 6 lakh to Tk 7 lakh as a work permit fee.
In Singapore, Bangladeshis work long tedious hours for construction firms with a low salary, he observed.
Alex said the Bangladesh government must regulate its recruiting agents strictly to stop exploitations of the jobseekers. Bangladesh and Singapore should consider introducing e-recruitment system to protect the workers from exploitations, he suggested.
“'When the employer chooses not to retain a worker…the worker loses work permit and under Singapore law the employer then has an obligation to repatriate him…,” Alex mentioned.
Typically a worker wants to continue working and yet the worker is at the employer's discretion, he said. “It's very much like the sponsorship system (kafala) in the gulf countries and in our view horribly close to something that we thought we abolished 200 years ago, namely slavery,” he further observed.
Over 200,000 Bangladeshi workers are currently working in Singapore mainly in the construction and cleaning sectors.