Year in Reflection by Jaya Anil Kumar

Editor’s Note:

In our 3rd installment of the Year in Reflection series, Jaya Anil Kumar at Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME), Singapore, draws attention to two central concerns for migrant domestic workers in Singapore.

What are the most important labour issues which you have been working on and are not given enough attention?

I would say workplace safety and rest days for migrant domestic workers. 

In Singapore, there have been 40 workplace deaths so far this year, surpassing pre-Covid levels of 39 deaths in 2019. Workers are fearful of losing their jobs if they should whistleblow unsafe practices at their workplaces.

Reasonable opportunities for re-employment will guarantee workers to speak up and protect themselves and their fellow workers. Accountability should also be apportioned to those who can influence the workplace safety culture, and should come from top management. 

From 1 January 2023, migrant domestic workers (MDWs) are to be given one mandatory rest day a month, i.e. one rest day which cannot be compensated away. However, as rest days (including the upcoming mandatory rest days) are not defined as 24 hours, many MDWs still complete chores during the course of their rest day, without compensation.

A guide by MOM also recommends that MDWs get 8 hours of continuous rest on their rest days, which is far below the 24 hours of rest that international standards stipulate. Here is to read our comments.

What is one article or a book you read this year that has stuck in your mind?

Brown is Redacted, a collection of essays highlighting experiences of racial minorities in Singapore. A modified version of HOME’s forced labour report is in the book.