SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) investigated an average of 960 cases of kickback offences a year between 2016 and 2020, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng told Parliament on Tuesday (July 27).
About two-thirds of these cases were reported by migrant workers and one-third were reported by members of the public, non-governmental organisations and public agencies, Dr Tan said.
A small number of cases were detected through the MOM's proactive inspections, based on data analytics.
The offences related to illegal payments extracted from workers so that they would be considered for employment.
Dr Tan was responding to a parliamentary question from Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC).
"To encourage migrant workers to come forward to report kickbacks early without fear of reprisal from their employers, MOM will facilitate a change of employment for those who wish to continue to work here in Singapore," he said.
"MOM will also refer affected migrant workers to selected employment agencies which are committed not to charge these workers any fees for the job placement."
The ministry also educates first-time migrant workers through its mandatory settling-in programme on what kickback offences are, and on ways to seek help, Dr Tan said.
Mr Ng asked if MOM is doing anything else to curb this "widespread" practice. He noted that Taiwan offers migrant workers a financial incentive to report kickbacks.
In response, Dr Tan said kickback-related complaints make up only 10 per cent of all complaints received by MOM in a typical year.
He added that the Government's approach is to help workers understand what constitutes a kickback and the worker protections that are in place, and to deter errant employers through strict penalties instead of incentivising workers to report offences.
Under the Foreign Manpower Act, employers convicted of kickback offences can be fined up to $30,000, jailed for up to two years, or both.
Dr Tan also said recruiters who are not on MOM's list of accredited and registered employment agencies will be taken to task for illegal recruitment activities.