MOST foreign workers are highly satisfied being in Singapore and plan to continue working here after their current stint, according to a survey by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Migrant Workers' Centre.
Citing the study in Parliament yesterday, Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said it supported the finding by the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the Little India riot on Dec 8 that there was no "systemic dissatisfaction" among foreign workers.
Mr Tan said: "Ultimately, what the foreign workers themselves say and do matters."
The survey, which started in March and is expected to end by next month, will cover the views of 4,000 foreign workers. The interim findings that Mr Tan cited involve the responses of about 930 work permit holders.
More than 90 per cent said they are highly satisfied with working in Singapore, with only 2 per cent expressing dissatisfaction.
About 81 per cent would recommend Singapore to friends and relatives as a place for work, citing good wages and good working and living conditions as the main factors.
But the 19 per cent who indicated otherwise lamented costly agency fees, low pay and poor working conditions.
Meanwhile, about 92 per cent plan to continue working here. Survey results aside, Mr Tan noted that more than 70 per cent are already renewing their contracts after the first two years.
"Taken together, these pieces of evidence suggest that the majority of foreigners continue to consider Singapore an attractive place to work," he said.
The COI report thus puts to rest "more speculative causes for the riot" as purveyed by some critics, which were then "echoed blindly" in some foreign media.
Still, Mr Tan said he accepts the COI's recommendation that there is room to improve conditions for foreign workers and that his ministry does not take the current state of affairs for granted.
On this score, he pledged to take to task errant employers who mistreat workers, and to look into dormitories that fail to meet minimum standards.
The Government is also boosting services and amenities outside congregation hot spots like Little India. It is speeding up the construction of dorms with built-in amenities and recreation facilities such as minimarts, gyms and free Wi-Fi.
"A majority of the purpose- built dorms today do meet the requirements. For those that do not, I think we do inspect and follow up to make sure that's being done," he said.
He noted that of the 770,000 non-domestic work permit holders, almost half are Malaysians who commute to work daily and do not need dorm beds, or those in the manufacturing and service sectors who are allowed to rent flats and live in private estates.
Nearly 90 per cent of the remainder are already housed in purpose-built dorms, factory- converted dorms and quarters in construction sites.
Mr Tan also said that large dorm operators are "on board" for a new regulatory framework that is being drawn up and will be announced soon. More dedicated recreation centres for foreign workers will also be built in tandem with the increase in foreign workforce numbers, he added.
Mr Tan acknowledged the need to further improve outreach. Measures being considered include creating easier-to-understand material to educate foreign workers on their rights and social norms and roping in partners like student volunteers.
Asked by Nominated Member of Parliament Nicholas Fang if such efforts to improve the lives of foreign workers are at odds with the goal of keeping this workforce transient, Mr Tan disagreed.
"I think it's the right thing for us to do as a society," he said.