SINGAPORE - There are fewer than 50 foreign hostesses working in Singapore nightlife establishments who hold valid work passes, all of which were approved before last year, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said on Tuesday (July 27).
In a written answer to a parliamentary question filed by Mr Don Wee (Chua Chu Kang GRC), Dr Tan said these work pass holders had been allowed to perform non-hostessing jobs since October last year, after their employers temporarily pivoted to other allowed business activities such as food and beverage (F&B).
"Nightlife establishments also hire work pass holders in other occupations, such as operations executives and waitresses. Even before Covid-19, they were not allowed to work as hostesses," Dr Tan said.
Mr Wee had asked for the total number of social hostesses as well as a breakdown of how many were here on work passes and social visit passes, in relation to the Covid-19 cluster involving these hostesses.
He also asked what measures were being taken to minimise the health risks posed by such interactions.
Dr Tan did not provide a figure for social visit pass holders, but he said foreigners with these passes working as hostesses are in breach of the Immigration Act.
He added that the police and various government agencies have been taking enforcement action against errant nightlife outlets, including revoking their licences permanently.
On July 12, the Ministry of Health said it was investigating infections among a group of Vietnamese social hostesses who had frequented KTV outlets that switched to operating as F&B outlets.
Nine Vietnamese women were arrested by the police, on July 21, for suspected involvement in vice-related activities, and at least six have had their short-term visit passes cancelled.
Preliminary investigations revealed that the women had allegedly provided sexual services via an online vice website, the police said.
Dr Tan said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) does not inspect nightlife establishments on its own, as work pass violations in such places are usually part of a broader pattern of illegal activity that involves breach of other laws.
He added: "If work pass holders are found to be engaging in unauthorised activities, they would be referred to MOM for enforcement actions under our work pass regulations."
Dr Tan also said the Government will continue to review enforcement efforts to ensure safe management measures are strictly adhered to.
Correction note: An earlier version of this story said there were fewer than 50 hostesses linked to the KTV cluster who hold valid work passes. MOM has since clarified that the figure refers to the total number of such hostesses across all nightlife establishments in Singapore.