Joint MND-MOM media release on new dormitories with improved standards for migrant workers


Yesterday marked the end of Circuit Breaker in Singapore; today I read about an improved housing plan for our migrant workers, in particular the table below which will be piloted at so-called quick build dormitories; i.e., temporary structures lasting 2-3 years:

Standards Current Improved
Living space ≥ 4.5 sqm per resident, including shared facilities ≥ 6 sqm per resident, not including shared facilities
Occupancy per room No maximum beds per room. In practice, 12-16 beds per room. Mostly double decker beds ≤10 beds per room. Use of single deck bed only, with 1m spacing between beds
Toilets ≥1 set of toilet, bathroom, sink and urinal: 15 beds ≥1 set of toilet, bathroom, sink to 5 beds
Sick bay and isolation facility ≥1 sick bay bed per 1,000 bed spaces. Additional isolation spaces (to be stood if needed) at 19 beds per 1,000 bed spaces ≥ 15 sick bay bed per 1,000 bedspaces. Additional isolation spaces (to be stood up if needed) at 10 beds per 1,000 residents

For each row, the values in the rightmost column are a clear improvement. But it also underscores the plight of our migrant workers.

I read What dark secret is in the Singapore basement? by Han Fook Kwang back in 2015. The full article is well worth a read, here’s an excerpt:

In the city of Omelas, life couldn’t be better. The people are happy, they have everything they want and they live life to the fullest.

Except for one dark secret that they share.

There is this child who is kept locked in a basement in utter misery, deprived and tortured. The author does not say why this is so, or what the child has done to deserve this terrible imprisonment.

Only that it is necessary for the city’s continued success and contentment. Free him and everything that made the city such a wonderful place will disappear.

“They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas. Some of them have come to see it, others are content merely to know it is there. They all know that it has to be there. Some of them understand why, and some do not, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery.”

Most accept this unwritten social contract that guarantees their happiness.

But not everyone is happy with this state of affairs. There are those who cannot stand the injustice and leave the city.

This story has stuck with me ever since, just like how I hope these pilot standards stick around.