HOME’s Response to ‘More Help and Treats for Foreign Workers’

This letter was submitted to the Straits Times’ forum page and an edited version was published on 27 December 2015.

Dear Sir/Madam,
I refer to last Sunday’s article ‘More Help and Treats for Foreign Workers’.

We urge The Ministry of Manpower to reconsider its view that it is unable to accede to  the  United  Nations  Convention  for  the  Protection  of  the  Rights  of  Migrant Workers and Members of their Families because Singapore’s ‘specific circumstances’ does  not  make  it possible to  give  equal  rights  to  migrants.  While  we  acknowledge that  there  are  certain benefits  which  only  citizens  should  enjoy,  such  as the right  to vote  or  hold  political  office,  a  person’s  nationality  should  not  determine  whether they  are  treated fairly  at  the workplace  or whether  they  have  affordable  access  to health  services.  Given  the enormous  economic  contributions  that  migrant  workers make to the economy, the lack of resources should not be a reason in denying them such basic rights.

The  provisions  contained  in  the  Convention  for  Migrant  Workers  are  in  no  way different to Singapore’s other human rights obligations. For example, the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention for  the  Rights  of  the Child  (CRC),  both  of  which  Singapore  has  ratified,  contain provisions which apply to migrant women and children too. Singapore has signed on to  the  Convention  for  the  Elimination  of  Racial  Discrimination,  which  contains provisions  addressing  discrimination based  on nationality.  Therefore,  signing  on  to the   migrant   workers   convention   would   be   a   logical   next   step.   We   note   the government’s  reluctance  to  support  the  Convention  by  citing  the  fact  that  the majority  of  states  have  not  ratified  it.  But  Singapore  can  certainly  be  a  leader  by setting an example in the region by signing on to the Convention, even though many countries have not.

It is important to realise that granting equal rights to migrants does not disadvantage locals  in  any  way.  Research  has  shown  that  a  work  culture  which  upholds  human rights  and  does  not  discriminate  based  on  social  status  leads  to  higher  productivity and  encourages  staff  retention.  Indeed  MNCs  in  particular  recognize  this  fact  and have established diversity committees to create inclusive work environments.

Jolovan Wham
Executive Director
Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME)




Stephanie Chok