Dr Satveer Kaur, an academic at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Chua Tian Poh Community Leadership Centre, highlighted how society can co-create solutions with migrant workers at the centre of the solutioning.
Dr Satveer was one of the panelists in the webinar titled ‘Labour Day Special Webinar – Migrant Workers and the Pandemic in Singapore’ which was organised by MARUAH, a human-rights non-government organisation, in conjunction with the International Labour Day on 1 May.
She remarked that migrant workers are the best solution providers for themselves because they see, live, and experience structural inequalities.
“I think a key premise that we need to sort of talk about and think about at this point is how can we engage migrant workers’ voices in solutioning, centering migrant workers’ voices in design,” Dr Satveer said.
As a starter to this approach, she suggested to look at structural competency which she indicated “pretty much relates to the healthcare atmosphere”.
Noting that medical professionals may use cultural competency as a model, she questioned whether cultural competency is enough.
“When talking to migrant workers during the treatment process or the diagnosis process, think about how the migrant workers can come on board with biomedical professionals. Talk about delivering more equitable health solutions and finally, interventions that are tied to their structural conditions,” she noted.
Equalizing communicative resources through community-centered strategies
Only migrant workers understand the kind of disparities that they face, whether it’s related to food, employment, salaries, dormitories conditions, and so on, Dr Satveer remarked.
On that note, she highlighted several communicative resources to be equalized when engaging with the migrant workers.
The first communicative resource is health information, in which Dr Satveer asked to look into how health information can be delivered to migrant workers more quickly and effectively. She also hinted that it is part of the solutioning.
“If there’s an outbreak again or if there’s a pandemic response, are health resources able to go or reach migrant workers effectively? That’s part of the solutioning. What sorts of health information resources? And how fast can they get to migrant workers?” she asserted.
Dr Satveer highlighted the distribution of health resources as the second communicative resource, adding that the updates in the scientific community should also be able to reach groups like migrant workers.
The third communicative resource is support resources. For instance, if a migrant worker wants to clarify or ask questions about the COVID-19 outbreak, are there any support resources for them to refer to, she questioned.
As for the fourth communicative resource, Dr Satveer pointed out about centering the migrant workers’ voices. Centering their voices in terms of the preparation of health resources, as well as their process in understanding the health information given during this period of the outbreak.
She went on to list the fifth communicative resource, which is the co-creation in centering these resources.
“In terms of structuring health information resources to migrant workers, how can they be part of the co-creative process?” Dr Satveer asked.
Resident engagement and community partnerships were highlighted as the sixth communicative resource, in which she questioned, “Are migrant workers’ voices going to be centered when preparing for the outbreak? Will there be any advisory boards where migrant workers can be part of that process?”
“This is really not about tokenism, but truly equalizing communicative resources with migrant workers in mind,” she remarked.
Next is the “solutions that are anchored in migrant worker community voices”, which Dr Satveer focused on the kinds of solutions that can be used in the long run.
Lastly is the feedback mechanism an interactive process with the migrant workers. Take the migrant workers’ food issues as an example, when the Government stepped up to improve the food quality catered to the migrant workers after the issue was constantly being discussed.
“Now how do we move forward? This requires a feedback mechanism in place where migrant workers can constantly go back and forth with feedback mechanisms, whether it pertains to food, salaries, dormitories, and so on,” she noted.
Migrant workers’ representation in the mainstream press
In times of crisis, mainstream media anchored competing voices, said Dr Satveer.
“In terms of migrant workers’ voices, what we have found previously is that in terms of how mainstream media has discussed about migrant workers’ representation and voices have not been as amplified as it has been in the current COVID-19 crisis,” she remarked.
Hence, Dr Satveer noted that society needs to think about how to create communicative conditions that are more equitable and more equal for the migrant workers.
She then spoke about the forum letter, saying, “If there is no space for those that are powerless to speak back, does that circulate marginalizing discourses further without any real engagement from subaltern groups?”
“Are there opportunities for a migrant worker to craft a form letter back about or speak back about what has been circulated about them? I think that’s something that we really need to think about as well when thinking about xenophobic issues pertaining to migrant workers,” Dr Satveer concluded.