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More foreign workers are not given IPA letters, exposing them to exploitation

In 2018, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) commissioned a survey and it was revealed that 15.4 per cent of non-Malaysian work permit holders did not receive their in-principle approval (IPA) letter before they enter Singapore. This is a 4 per cent increase compared to the results gathered in 2014, the last time a similar survey was done.

According to the law, employers are supposed to send over the IPA letter to their employees after their permit application is approved and before leaving their home country. It is important as the letter includes vital information like the term and conditions of their employment, including the basic salary.

In fact, it is seen as a de-facto contract, in case other written agreements were not given. As for employers who don’t obey to this rule, they may be fined up to S$10,000.

As reported by The New Paper (TNP), Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) chairman Yeo Guat Kwang said that there’s a hike in defiant employers because a number of them are not aware of the rule.

“We need to continue to urge employers to provide the IPA to their workers,” he said while speaking on the sidelines of an NTUC May Day event to celebrate migrant workers.

As such, he pushes foreign workers to report early when they face issues with their IPA letters, especially problems with their salary.

Adding to that, Transient Workers Count Too general manager Ethan Guo told TNP that during a salary disagreement, employers generally have more advantages as work permits are “directly tied” to them.

“Workers who make a complaint to MOM will face premature termination of their jobs, which will leave them vulnerable and potentially be sent home before managing to recover the debts they incurred in taking loans to work here,” he said.

He added, “These days, workers with salary disputes are almost automatically allowed a change of employer. However, the success rate of finding new employment in Singapore is very low”.

Although more foreign workers fail to receive their IPA letter, the survey pointed out that these workers are generally happy with the working conditions in the country and would suggest Singapore to their friends and family to work.

The MOM survey was conducted by market research company Blackbox Research on approximately 2,500 work permit holders and 500 S Pass holders who were randomly polled.

As for their overall assessment, 86.3 per cent of work pass holders and 87.5 per cent of S Pass holders noted that they were satisfied working in the city-state, a similar results to the survey conducted in 2014.