Singapore—A new survey shows that only one out of every four Singaporeans is willing to admit that there is a need for migrant workers, even if seven out of 10 acknowledge the present shortage in the country’s workforce.
The survey, conducted among four countries in Asia by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and United Nations Women, serves to underline the present sentiment of resistance to foreign labour, with half of the survey’s respondents saying that they believe that crime has increased and that Singapore’s heritage and culture are under threat because of the presence of migrant workers.
The results of the survey, conducted between December 2018 and January 2019, were published on December 18, which is International Migrants Day, in a report entitled “Public Attitudes Towards Migrant Workers In Japan, Malaysia, Singapore And Thailand.” There were 4,099 people who responded, among which were 1,005 Singaporeans.
However, among the four countries in the survey, Singaporeans still have more positive perspectives on migrant labour.
The results show that while migration has been on the increase, attitudes toward migrant workers have become more negative over the last 10 years.
Among the respondents from Singapore, 58 percent perceive migrant workers to have a overall positive net effect on the national economy, as opposed to respondents from Japan, with only 34 percent having the same perspective, while only 32 and 30 percent of Thai and Malaysian respondents, respectively, share this view.
Conversely, those who responded that migrant workers are a “drain on the national economy” were only 30 percent in Singapore, as opposed to 47 percent in Malaysia, 40 percent in Thailand and 32 percent in Japan.
Singapore has 1.4 million foreign workers, based on data from the Ministry of Manpower in June of this year, including 255,800 domestic helpers, 284,300 construction workers on work permits and 189,000 employment pass holders.
Nearly a third of Singaporean respondents, however, (32 percent) say that they felt that foreign workers have a poor work ethic and cannot be trusted.
Surprisingly, Singapore scored the highest among the four countries when it comes to the percentage of those who feel that migrant workers should not receive the same pay benefits as local workers.
While Singaporeans are more likely than the other nationalities in the survey to have close ties with foreigners such as friendships or employer-employee relationships, support for foreign workers overall has gone down. A similar survey measuring attitudes toward migrant workers that was carried out in 2010 showed that the country’s score has gone down by seven points.
The report noted how important it is to have positive interactions with migrant workers.
”It is critical, therefore, to encourage more interaction of communities with migrant workers. Decreasing the distance between nationals in countries of destination and migrant workers requires a multi-pronged approach, including changes to laws and policy to ensure there are no exclusions or ‘special rules’ that apply to migrant workers; that they receive fair and equal treatment; and that city planning, workplace inclusion and community platforms work to encourage social interaction.”
The full report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and United Nations Women can be accessed online here. -/TISG
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