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MOM said in October 2023 that about 1,000 dorms must meet improved interim housing standards by 2030. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - One-third of the 54 purpose-built dormitories (PBDs) for foreign workers here will be exempted from having to meet improved interim housing standards announced in October 2023, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

This is because their remaining lease durations are short, and it would not be practical to require them to be retrofitted, the ministry said on Jan 10 in a written parliamentary reply to a question filed by Mr Louis Chua (Sengkang GRC).

Instead, such dorms will be required to comply with the full set of new dormitory standards announced in September 2021 when they start their new leases.

Mr Chua had asked what number and percentage of PBDs and factory-converted dormitories (FCDs) currently do not meet the interim standards under the Dormitory Transition Scheme announced in October 2023.

The interim standards MOM had previously announced include a minimum living space of 3.6 sq m per resident, and a recommendation that beds be at least 1m apart – in line with International Labour Organisation standards for worker housing.

They are meant to improve the ability of worker dorms to contain disease outbreaks, and to transition them to meeting the full set of new standards by 2040, which include a minimum living space of 4.2 sq m per resident, among other things.

MOM said some 80 per cent of PBDs and 95 per cent of FCDs currently do not meet the interim standards. Of these, around 40 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively, will be exempted.

This works out to be about 17 PBDs. PBDs are dormitories that can accommodate 1,000 or more workers, with the average being 5,000 workers. FCDs are factories that have been partially converted into dormitories.

The ministry did not elaborate on what it meant by short remaining leases, though it had previously said that dorms with leases expiring in 2033 or earlier would be exempted from the transition.

MOM said in October 2023 that about 1,000 existing PBDs and FCDs must meet the interim standards by 2030. The vast majority would progressively meet these standards between 2027 and 2030, with a “small handful” of large dorms to do so earlier as they were assessed to have a higher public health risk.

Replying to a separate question by Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), MOM said on Jan 10 that it has completed its inspection of all construction temporary quarters (CTQs) here that are regulated under the Foreign Employee Dormitories Act (Feda).

No major lapses were uncovered, although common minor issues found included poor housekeeping such as faulty lights, water leakage in toilets, and untidy rooms.

“CTQ operators have promptly rectified these minor issues and no penalties have been imposed,” it said.

CTQs house foreign workers within construction sites. Those with seven or more beds came under Feda regulation from April 2023, after the law was expanded to bring migrant worker dorms under a single regulatory and enforcement framework.

Tan C. One-third of large worker dorms to be exempted from retrofits due to short remaining leases. The Straits Times. Published January 14, 2024.


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