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Over 1,500 smaller dorms to be regulated under expanded Foreign Employee Dormitories Act: MOM

SINGAPORE — More than 1,500 migrant worker dormitories with under 1,000 beds each will soon have to abide by the same regulatory framework as their larger counterparts, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Tuesday (Sept 6). This will allow the authorities to contain public health outbreaks within them more easily.

A view of a workers' dormitory in Tuas.
A view of a workers' dormitory in Tuas.
  • The Foreign Employee Dormitories Act will be expanded from April 1, 2023
  • It will cover all 1,600 dormitories in Singapore that have seven beds or more
  • All dormitories that have between seven and 999 beds will be subject to new requirements, MOM said 
  • These are in relation to reporting requirements, traffic management and contingency plans for public health outbreaks, among others

SINGAPORE — More than 1,500 migrant worker dormitories with under 1,000 beds each will soon have to abide by the same regulatory framework as their larger counterparts, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Tuesday (Sept 6). This will allow the authorities to contain public health outbreaks within them more easily.

There will, however, be no change for the larger dormitories with 1,000 or more beds, the ministry added as it announced the expansion of the Foreign Employee Dormitories Act (Feda), which will take effect on April 1 next year.

The change means that compared to the 53 dormitories now, all 1,600 of Singapore's foreign worker dormitories with seven beds or more will come under the purview of the Act, which essentially governs dormitory standards.

Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Manpower, said during a press conference on the announcement that this will almost double the coverage of beds under the Act from 256,000 to close to 440,000.

Currently, all migrant worker dormitories are subject to various requirements under various pieces of legislation, covering areas such as fire safety, living conditions, sanitary and public health requirements, MOM said.

However, only dormitories with 1,000 beds or more are licensed under Feda and subject to more requirements for public health and safety, and the provisions of recreation and commercial facilities for their residents.

Class Four dormitories have the highest resident welfare, as well as safety and health requirement, among four dormitory licenses.

MOM said that dormitories will receive their licence categories depending on their size.

For instance, dormitories with seven to 99 beds will be given a Class One licence, while Class Two license-holders are those with 100 to 299 beds.

Larger dormitories that have between 300 and 999 beds, or 1,000 or more beds, will be classified under Class Three and Four respectively.

There will be no changes in requirements for Class Four dormitories, MOM said, but all other classes will be subject to new requirements in areas such as reporting requirements, traffic management and contingency plans for public health outbreaks.

All existing Class One to Class Three dormitories, as well as new dormitories that intend to begin operations before April 1 next year, must apply for a provisional Feda licence, which will have a two-year validity, from January onwards or they will have to cease operations.

As for new dormitories that intend to begin operations on or after April 1 next year, they must apply for a full Feda licence, which will be valid for three years.

In March last year, then-Second Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng first announced in Parliament that MOM would be reviewing the expansion of Feda to help the authorities prevent and more quickly contain disease outbreak in the dormitories.

At that time, Singapore was experiencing a surge of Covid-19 cases, which largely spread in the dormitories.

The review was initially meant to have been completed in the second-half of 2021, but Dr Koh said on Tuesday that the pandemic had hindered progress.

“Right now, as we are emerging… into a more (Covid-19) endemic state, everybody has a bit more space to breathe,” Dr Koh added.

“It's a good time for us to consolidate some of the things (that we have learned) and put up this series of recommendations so that operators can also relook how we can maintain some of these good measures that have kept them safe during the last two-and-a-half years.”

Right now, as we are emerging… into a more (Covid-19) endemic state, everybody has a bit more space to breathe.
Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Manpower

The expansion of Feda also means that MOM will now have more direct regulatory measures and levers to impose more public health requirements to contain any public health outbreaks during a pandemic, Dr Koh added.

Citing an example, he said that dormitory operators will be required to cater for extra isolation facilities and put in place other relevant measures to curb any disease transmission within their dormitories.

Commenting on Feda’s expansion, the Dormitory Association Singapore Limited said that it is an important milestone for the industry because it will mean having in place consistent standards across all dormitories to provide a good living standard for migrant workers.

Still, the association’s president, Mr Jonathan Cheah, said that the industry will need some time to adjust to the new framework.

In the meantime, the association is “working closely with MOM to curate a training programme on compliance requirements and dormitory best practices”.

Mr Eugene Aw, a council member with the Dormitory Association Singapore Limited, said one initial concern that the association had with the expansion of the law was a potential increase in cost.

However, after discussions with the authorities, they became of the view that the changes would be “manageable”, he said, because the changes largely pertain to improvements in terms of management and that the costs would be administrative in nature.

Related topics

Foreign Employee Dormitories Act Koh Poh Koon Migrant Workers foreign worker dormitories Covid-19 diseases MOM

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