Pilot scheme to centralise onboarding process likely to become permanent

A pilot scheme to centralise the onboarding process for migrant workers will likely become a permanent fixture here, Second Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng said yesterday.

This is because it helps Singapore better prepare for a future "Disease X" while lowering costs for employers.

Since March 15, all work permit and S Pass holders in the construction, marine and process (CMP) sectors arriving from higher-risk countries such as Bangladesh and Malaysia have to serve the bulk of their quarantine in Migrant Worker Onboarding Centres (MWOCs) in Punggol, Tengah or Eunos.

Arriving foreign workers in the CMP sectors go through a 14-day stay-home notice and seven-day isolation period, and while at the centres, undergo a more detailed medical examination and comprehensive orientation programme at the same time. This saves employers from having to arrange for medical screenings and settling-in programmes individually once the worker is out of quarantine.

Dr Tan said the goal is to have permanent onboarding centres and move parts of the process to the workers' home countries.

"We hope that there will be one to two centralised facilities to cater to those that fly in, and those that come by land."

He added: "Should 'Disease X' come - and it is not a question of if, it is a question of when - a centre like this will enable us to react a lot faster and intervene at a significantly higher level."

Employers pay up to $2,400 for each worker's stay at an MWOC - about $300 less compared with previous quarantine arrangements.

The MWOCs could also help to ease manpower crunches in sectors such as construction.

Singapore Contractors Association president Ng Yek Meng said: "We can bring in workers in a safer manner and minimise the risk of Covid-19 spreading to the community, so that more workers can enter into Singapore faster."

Kok Yufeng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2021, with the headline 'Pilot scheme to centralise onboarding process likely to become permanent'. Subscribe