I attended TWC2's orientation on 8th November. Transient Workers Count Too is a non-profit organisation in Singapore which aims at helping foreign workers, a silent community most Singaporeans unheard of. Though TWC2 is legal and licensed, it does not receive much support from Singapore government.
I was supposed to attend the orientation last month, but I was lost in the labyrinth of alleys. Orientation site located at Little India, where occurred Little India Riot in 2013, the first riot happened in Singapore after 1969 racial riot. Little India lives a large amount of foreign workers from India and Pakistan. So my first impression of TWC2 is so different from other NGOs and charity organisations I used to work with: TWC2 is so close to the community it is helping.
After the orientation, my two misconception on foreign workers were clarified.
1. Foreign workers are uneducated or low-educated.
Actually, many foreign workers in Singapore have university degrees and high English language proficiency. The reason they chose to come here is because of (at least they presumed) better working conditions, higher salaries and more opportunities compared to what their poor and backward hometowns could offer. Sadly, many fell into a situation far worth than their expectations due to asymmetric information.
2. Many foreign workers are undocumented, illegal immigrants.
In fact all people in Singapore are documented. Foreign workers have paid a large amount of money to "agencies" in their home countries for Singapore working visas. Again, due to asymmetric information, they do not know that they can apply working visas through official means. Also, these "agencies" take away part of foreign workers' salaries during their first year working in Singapore.
From the orientation, I saw a lot of cases of which employers refused to cover medical fees for their injured foreign workers, of which the actual salaries foreign workers received were much lower than what their employers had promised, of which those "agencies" gave foreign workers forged documentations and visas...
We usually thinks about foreign workers as those who take over jobs Singaporeans do not want to do, like construction workers, wall painters, street cleaners and domestic helpers. They live under our ignorance and sometimes arrogance. But they are just like us, they need support from us.
I want to join TWC2 to help them. The next blog I will write about several problems foreign workers and TWC2 face.