February 22, 2018 / 10:13 AM / a month ago

Singapore helps migrant workers track income after reports of unpaid wages

(Reuters) - Singapore will help migrant workers set up bank accounts to ensure wages are paid after a report by a support group found some employers skipped town without paying their workers.

The wealthy city-state with a rapidly ageing population of 5.6 million relies on a large number of temporary workers in sectors ranging from construction, manufacturing to services.

A recent report by the Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC), run by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), about unpaid wages raised concerns that Singapore’s foreign workers may not be adequately protected financially.

Led by the MWC in partnership with POSB Bank, owned by the country’s largest lender DBS Bank, the program looks to enroll 200,000 workers in the first year.

“With the proper records, and with the bank accounts, we will also be able to verify whether the salary has been paid promptly with the right amount,” MWC Chairman Yeo Guat Kwang told reporters.

New migrant workers who have their work permit applications submitted from April 1, will be issued an automated-teller machine card that doubles as a membership card, once their employers open a bank account.

They can check their salaries and are entitled to benefits through commercial partners in telecoms, travel, bike-sharing and money transfer companies.

MWC reported earlier this month that there were at least six cases of foreign employers who absconded Singapore in 2017 without paying their migrant workers including a Chinese employer who left with more than S$4,000 ($3,018) in unpaid wages for each of its 80 migrant workers.

The membership program will target new migrant workers entering Singapore in the first phase, and will be extended to all foreign workers except domestic helpers, who are supported by a separate group, by the end of 2018.

NTUC leader Chan Chun Sing has called on Singapore companies to join the network.

($1 = 1.3250 Singapore dollars)

Reporting by Dewey Sim; Editing by Jack Kim and Jacqueline Wong

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