(Photo - Terry Xu)

How much of the $3 billion foreign workers’ levies have been used to help foreign workers?

I refer to the article “Left in the lurch when foreign bosses disappear” (Straits Times, Feb 12).

The article quotes Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) stating that there have been at least six cases of non-Singaporean employers absconding without paying their foreign workers in the past one and half year.

The GONGO (Government Organised Non-Government Organisation) notes that in each case, more than 20 workers were owed about three to four months’ pay.

Its chairman Yeo Guat Kwang, who is a former People’s Action Party Member of Parliament at Ang Mo Kio GRC, added that MWC noticed the trend only in recent years.

Mr Yeo said “The non-Singaporean employer has little to lose and runs away when times get difficult… When they return to their home country, it’s out of our jurisdiction,”

With all the rhetoric practically every year – about the plight of foreign workers – how much of the estimated over $3 billion revenue a year from foreign workers’ levies – have been used to help such workers?

How much is the foreign worker levy collected by Ministry of Manpower each year and what is it used for?

On 12 November 2013, then-MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, Mr Gan Thiam Poh asked the Acting Minister for Manpower in a written question about the amounts of foreign worker levies collected and workfare income supplement disbursed respectively for the past two years; and whether the foreign worker levies have funded the workfare income supplement to benefit Singaporean workers.

Then-Acting Minister for Manpower, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin replied:

The total foreign worker levies collected were S$2.5 billion for the Financial Year 2011 and S$1.9 billion for the Financial Year 2010. Similar to other sources of Government revenue, the foreign worker levies are not ringfenced for any specific purposes. All Government revenue collected would go into the Consolidated Fund used to fund Government expenditures in general. This includes the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) scheme which the Government introduced in 2007 to supplement the income and CPF savings of older low-wage workers while encouraging work. For work done in 2010 and 2011, about S$400 million has been given out in WIS for each work year.

According to Ministry of Manpower’s statistics, as of June 2017, there are 296,700 construction workers in Singapore

People’s Republic of China (PRC), Non-traditional sources (NTS): India; Sri Lanka; Thailand; Bangladesh; Myanmar; Philippines. North Asian sources (NAS): Hong Kong (HKSAR passport); Macau; South Korea; Taiwan