Just switch “foreign domestic workers” to “lower-income Singaporean workers”?


Double standards when we talk about foreign workers and lower-income Singaporean workers?

I refer to the article “Commentary: Don’t hold our treatment of foreign domestic workers to countries with lower standards” (Channel NewsAsia, Apr 21).

After reading the above and as we are approaching Labour Day on 1 May – I simply took parts of the article and changed “foreign domestic worker” to “lower-income Singaporean worker”.

Do you not see what may be arguably, the irony and the double standards in talking about the plight of foreign workers vis-a-vis lower-income Singaporean workers?

“When it comes to governance, healthcare, transportation and quality of life, we often compare ourselves to the best and ask what it will take to get there if we’re not already there.

Yet when it comes to the rights of lower-income Singaporean workers, many apparently choose to compare our standards to those of less developed countries which may have fewer protections for their local workforce.

We should aspire to higher standards for the treatment of lower-income Singaporean workers in our country.

Shouldn’t these standards be applied to lower-income Singaporean workers too?

Many readers responded to these suggestions by pointing out that even under current conditions, lower-income Singaporean workers are earning more here that they would had they stayed in (some other) countries.

This may very well be true. But are those really the standards we should live by in Singapore?

We pride ourselves on being a First World nation, so shouldn’t we endeavour to apply First World standards of fairness to our treatment of all workers including lower-income Singaporean workers here?

Many also pointed out that non-government organisations often exhort better treatment of lower-income Singaporean workers but neglect employers’ rights.

Certainly, employers’ rights deserve equal attention.

But the two aren’t mutually exclusive, unless upholding employers’ rights necessarily requires the unfair and inhumane treatment of workers.

Most would agree this isn’t the case.

So why then do so many adopt an “us against them” mentality when negotiating such rights?

Some employers maintain that the lower-income Singaporean worker signed the contract, so why should she complain?

Just as we do with other aspects of life and living in Singapore, let’s aspire to higher standards and set our own benchmarks for the treatment of lower-income Singaporean workers in our country.”

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.