In the past 5 years, there has been a large shift in the housing patterns of foreign workers in Singapore. More than 300 000 foreign workers now stay in purpose-built or factory-converted dormitories. Previously, the illegal housing of workers in containers, sites and various unapproved locations was rampant which led to poor living standards. This led to the Ministry of Manpower taking a more stringent view on illegal accommodations and forming a long-term plan to provide affordable, convenient and quality housing for foreign workers. Companies and employers have also realized the various benefits that worker dormitories bring and this has led to them preferring dormitories as the accommodation of choice for their employees. Let us introduce the reasons for this preference:
1) High Level of Standards
The dormitories in Singapore are highly regulated. Purpose-built dormitories that house more than 1000 workers are subjected to Foreign Employee Dormitories Act (FEDA) under the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). Generally, these dormitories are newer and also better mantain due to the need to adhere to the strict rules and regulations under the Act. Also in 2017, Factory-converted dormitories were instructed with new guidelines by MOM to provide channels for feedback, personal lockers, sick bays and Wi-Fi for their residents.Due to these strict standards, common problems such as dirtiness, poor hygiene and even disruptive presence of pests are eliminated. Residents are able to enjoy a well-deserved rest after their work hours in clean and high quality surroundings.
2) Convenience Factors
For companies with a large group of workers, finding a suitable place to house them all can be a very challenging affair. Even for workers who are eligible to be housed in HDB flats, finding sufficient space in a common address is frustrating. When employees are housed in different locations, it means additional travel time for transporting them to and fro to their workplaces and accommodation.
Dormitories offer a common address where a company can place their foreign workers regardless of whether they have 2 or 100s of workers as the capacity of dormitories are usually sufficient to accommodate any number of workers. In addition, with dormitories found in almost all parts of Singapore and usually close to industrial and work sites, employers have a choice in renting bed spaces in an area that is convenient for them.
3) One-Stop Solution for Residents
Increasingly, more and more dormitories are not only providing the core services of accommodation but are serving as a one-stop living solution for their residents. Fresh groceries and other daily necessities are available at the doorstep of the residents with the opening of supermarkets and convenience stores that specifically cater to their needs and preferences. Many dormitories provide cooking facilities that is greatly requested by foreign workers because it allows them to save costs on food and also prepare dishes suited to their tastes. Furthermore, laundry services are also commonplace which helps to consolidate and wash the residents’ work wear allowing them fresh and clean clothing with eating into their free time.
Beyond these, some dormitories also have canteens, barber shops, mobile service providers, money exchange services which are ancillary services that residents appreciate. This increased convenience means that foreign workers do not need to travel out of the area at the expense of their time and money to obtain such services. Mega-dormitories such as Tuas View and Sungei Tengah even have large scale sports facilities, beer gardens and even theatres. These value-added services provide entertainment to the residents at a low cost, creating a happy stay for them. As the saying goes, “A happy worker is a productive worker”.
4) A Feeling of Community
A dormitory environment serves as an avenue for them to not only connect to their fellow countryman but also build ties with other residents. During festive and public holidays such as Lunar New Year, Deepavali and Hari Raya, special events are organized to engage the community. These events aim at spreading joy throughout the dormitory regardless of one’s race or national identity. It helps to build a sense of community and belonging and washes away the notion that they are migrants workers, alone in a foreign land.
5) Holistic service that is Value-for-Money
Employers have realized that dormitories offer a holistic package of services that not only houses the workers but caters to their welfare, allowing them to put full effort on their work. Comparatively, if an employer rents a space, they will have to upkeep operations and maintenance resulting in additional time, effort and money spent.
The costs renting bed spaces for 10 workers is around $2,500 to $4,000 a month, depending on location, which is usually inclusive of laundry services and utility bills.If an employer rents a space for 10 workers, it will usually cost around 10 to 20% lower but non-inclusive of all the benefits and services that a dormitory provides. Conclusively, renting a dormitory would definitely serve as a more value-for-money choice.
6) MOM’s tough stance on Work Permit housing requirements
Some employers have continued to house their workers in illegal dormitories or work sites which are not authorized and allowed by MOM. In recent years, the number of operations conducted by MOM to uncover such practices has greatly increased as evidenced by the news coverage of errant employers who have been prosecuted. As seen from the precedence, employers have been fined tens of thousands of dollars for such violations. Furthermore, some of these employers have been barred for hiring Work Permit holders which has resulted to great financial losses to their businesses.
Dormitories - The choice accommodation for your foreign workers
Our migrant workers play a large role in the success of our companies and Singapore. They deserve to live in a quality housing option that fulfills their basic and psychological needs. The affordable prices for dormitory rental mean that employers can reap the benefits of satisfied, well-rested and happy employees without burning a hole in their pockets. Worker dormitories are clearly a win-win solution for both companies and their workers.
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