Foreign Workers in Singapore

Our Unsung Heroes

Our construction workers, domestic maids and street cleaners---most, if not all, are our friends from foreign countries who immigrated to Singapore to work. Every day, from dawn to dusk, "appreciation", advocacy, human rights and the promotion of justice for migrant workers, continue to be marginalised activities. Threats of funding cuts, and pressure from establishment forces are real. Singapore is highly dependent on low-wage migrant workers that make a large part of the workforce.

In fact, 1 in 5 households in Singapore employs a migrant domestic worker.

Financial Issues

Even before stepping into Singapore, foreign workers would already had to pay massive amounts.
According to Dr Brenda Seoh, workers in Bangladesh have to pay an average of S$6,340 for training and job placement services before entering Singapore. This causes up to 80% of construction workers having to borrow money in order to repay their debts. As such, these workers become rather compliant.

Illegal Deductions

“Migrant indebtedness exacerbates unequal bargaining power”, Dr Seoh states. As these migrant workers are desperate to repay their debts and start earning profit for their families back home, they would easily obey their bosses, even while they know they’re being unfairly treated. In fact, her study showed that one-third of foreign worker respondents had illegal deductions(without any explanation) made from their salaries. But because of their compliancy, bosses continue to take advantage of their lack of power.


According to Dr Seoh, a study by HOME suggested that 1/4 of migrant domestic workers have poor mental health. This is because of the lack of privacy that some of them experience due to the small living spaces of some employers or the poor treatment they face.
Let’s not forget the construction workers. The injuries that many migrant construction workers face are often not properly taken care of by these workers’ companies.


While institutional efforts may have spread awareness about the rights of migrant workers, few of these initiatives help them better assimilate into our local culture. As such, there is little progress in shedding everyday xenophobia on a more day-to-day level. Through a recent video series by SGAG, the local media site depicted the discrimination foreign workers faced in Singapore by reading aloud demeaning tweets written by locals to them.
In response to these tweets, many of these workers were speechless and several even choked up upon hearing them. More importantly, their responses, spoken after much hesitation, shed light on the apparent misunderstanding between Singaporeans and themselves.

What's Happening?

Making care affordable for migrant workers

It takes a community to help migrant workers who need affordable medical care and social assistance. This is the belief of Dr Goh Wei Leong, co-founder of HealthServe, which has grown from strength to strength and marks the 10th anniversary of its first clinic this year...

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Support and affordable care for migrant workers

Since its first affordable clinic for migrant workers opened in 2007, HealthServe's track record has been nothing short of robust. The non-profit organisation, which now has clinics in Geylang, Mandai and Jurong, saw its consultations double from fewer...

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Foreign domestic workers can now get help to receive e-payment of...

Foreign domestic workers who wish to receive their wages via electronic payments can now get help to do so at one of three centres run by the Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE). ...

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Lend a Helping Hand!

As a person or a group, we can make a difference.



  • Say 'Hi!' and strike up a conversation.
  • Refrain from making stereotype remarks or discriminatory behaviours.
  • Report any signs of abuse or mistreatment from employers.
  • Donate used or unwanted clothes, phonecards and other necessities.
  • Share their stories and acts of kindness online.
  • Pay out salaries and wages promptly.
  • Ensure food safety and nutrition are provided.
  • Upgrade their skills or design an in-house training programme.
  • Be inclusive: invite them for company gatherings or other events.
  • Be aware of their social and emotional needs.

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)

Become a volunteer or donate to the cause!

Bringing People Together

Events that integrate foreign workers into Singapore

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