Most Bangladeshi migrant workers living under stress in Singapore

Sun, February 23, 2020
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Most Bangladeshi migrant workers living under stress in Singapore
Published : 09 Jun 2018, 21:23:16
Most Bangladeshi migrant workers living under stress in Singapore
bbarta desk
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Eight out of 10 migrant workers under stress in Singapore are from Bangladesh, burdened by relatively higher agent fees and more mouths to feed back home, according to a study.

Often, they also think they cannot afford to see a doctor or buy prescription drugs because of healthcare costs.

In contrast, one out of 10 from China and India says he is under similar stress, said the study published online last year in the British Medical Journal Global Health.

The findings of the study, done in collaboration with non-profit organisation HealthServe, show that Bangladeshis form the vast majority of the 22 per cent of migrant workers under stress or who do not ever seek healthcare because of cost.

In all, 433 non-domestic migrant workers from Bangladesh, India and China were surveyed at clinics and a dormitory from July to August in 2016.

It was done by Dr Ang Jia Wei, 24, now a houseman at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, and supervised by Dr Shawn Vasoo, a consultant at the hospital’s department of infectious diseases.

Dr Ang was a student at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine at Nanyang Technological University when she did the study on the barriers that migrant workers may face when seeking healthcare.

Overall, 61.4 per cent of the workers surveyed said they have medical insurance. But they are not sure what sort of expenses it covered.

About 25 per cent said they are not paid their daily wages while on sick leave, even when they have the relevant documents from a doctor.

Dr Vasoo said Singapore has laws to protect migrant workers. Citing the compulsory medical i nsurance, he noted that the minimum coverage was raised in 2010 from $5,000 annually to $15,000. But some gaps remain, he added. For instance, migrant workers may not be able to afford outpatient fees, which insurance does not cover. Also, the $15,000 ceiling can be swiftly reached in the event of severe injuries.

He also said more attention should be paid to the Bangladeshi migrant workers, who appear to face greater stress. There are reportedly 120,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers in Singapore.

Dr Vasoo, who has volunteered at migrant worker clinics since 2002, said there are several reasons for the Bangladeshis being worst off.

More than one-quarter of them said they support at least seven family members back home, far more than the number reported by the workers from China and India.

Also, the fees they pay their recruiting agents are comparatively higher while their pay is lower – factors that put them deeper in debt.

For instance, 35 per cent of the Bangladeshis said they paid $5,000 to $10,000 in agent fees, compared with 12 per cent of Indians and 26 per cent of Chinese.

Dr Ang said the Bangladeshis may also feel more alone because of language barriers while their Chinese and Indian peers have at least a form of their native languages spoken here.

Dr Vasoo suggested that they be given information in their native language, and greater attention be paid to their well-being.

“Most migrants when they come to see us in the clinic will not come for psychological issues. They come with work injuries, medical issues.

“But if you probe, they end up talking about their stress and mental issues,’’ he added.

Ms Noorashikin Abdul Rahman, president of non-governmental organisation Transient Workers Count Too, said that based on their experience, “many will self-medicate when they have a common cold or fever because they don’t want to be seen as a burden and repatriated by their employers”.

She added: “Healthcare is important because if they are sick at work, it could cause accidents.”The Straits Times.




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