Improve migrant workers' living conditions

It was quite distressing to read that our guest migrant workers continue to languish in squalid and unhygienic conditions despite employers' and the Ministry of Manpower's efforts to make their lives in Singapore more fulfilling ("Life in the Dumps"; last Saturday).

It is sad that migrant workers are sleeping, eating and resting at Housing Board estates' bin centres that stink with the smell of trash, in a highly developed and environmentally clean country like ours.

Although cleaners find such bin centres "convenient" and claim to be satisfied with their cleanliness and spaciousness, the fact is that their health and welfare are at risk, as diseases like dengue can potentially surface in such surroundings.

What surprises me is that the report said such a state of affairs existed almost 20 years ago - it is unbelievable that this has gone on for so long. Foreign worker accommodation and their working conditions have featured prominently in the media for some time now.

It cannot be overemphasised that foreign workers come here because Singaporeans shun menial, unskilled and low-skilled jobs.

It is therefore of paramount importance that the Ministry of Manpower and employers take all reasonable steps to ensure that cleaners such as those required to clean bins in HDB estates should have more environmentally friendly and hygienic conditions under which to perform their duties.

An ongoing conundrum in Singapore is how we could improve our level of support towards foreign workers living and working in our midst. Unless all of us realise the need for greater humanity and compassion towards others, we cannot hope to become a fully developed nation.

V. Subramaniam (Dr)