Purpose-built dorms now 60% filled, down from 88% a year ago

The average occupancy in purpose-built dormitories for migrant workers is around 60 per cent of their maximum limit today.
The average occupancy in purpose-built dormitories for migrant workers is around 60 per cent of their maximum limit today.ST PHOTO: YONG LI XUAN

SINGAPORE - The average occupancy in purpose-built dormitories (PBDs) for migrant workers is around 60 per cent of their maximum limit today, down from 88 per cent a year ago, the authorities said on Friday (April 23).

This is because some workers have moved into new quick-build dorms (QBDs) and construction temporary quarters (CTQs), while others have returned home, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Ministry of National Development (MND) told The Straits Times.

Since April last year, when Covid-19 cases in dorms hit a peak of more than 1,000 a day, additional sites and bed spaces have been added to house about 60,000 migrant workers so as to reduce the density of existing dorms.

These additional sites include new QBDs at seven locations with 15,000 bed spaces, as well as new CTQs with 46,000 bed spaces.

More QBDs will be completed by this year, adding another 10,000 bed spaces.

QBDs are temporary structures that will last two to three years, and are meant to serve as a test bed for improved standards for dorms. For instance, each QBD room is capped at 10 residents and has en-suite toilets to reduce inter-mixing and minimise disease transmission from using shared facilities. MOM is reviewing these new standards.

CTQs are temporary structures that house workers at construction sites, helping firms to save on transport time and costs.

They can each hold up to 300 workers, and can be standalone structures that are removed later, or quarters that use parts of a building under construction.

Unused state properties, such as former schools and vacant factories, were also used as part of the initial efforts to reduce dorm density last year. They no longer house workers, MOM and MND said.

The authorities had pledged in June last year to add the additional 60,000 bed spaces for migrant workers. It said then that 25,000 of the spaces would be located at such temporary sites. Workers previously residing at these sites have since been moved to longer-term housing, such as PBDs and QBDs.

Meanwhile, new PBDs are progressively being built, and some will be commissioned from the second half of this year.

This is part of the Government's aim to have 11 new PBDs ready over the next one to two years.

The authorities had also said that they hope to eventually house up to 100,000 migrant workers in new PBDs and replace short- to medium-term housing sites.

On Friday, MOM and MND said government agencies will continue to monitor the demand, supply and public health resilience of the dorms to determine future plans for migrant worker housing.

The finalised plans for upcoming PBDs will be announced later.

Several new QBDs have also been used as migrant worker onboarding centres, where workers in the construction, marine and process sectors arriving from higher-risk countries such as India, Bangladesh and Malaysia must serve the bulk of their stay-home notice period. As at Wednesday, more than 7,200 migrant workers have gone through one of four such onboarding centres since they began operating on March 15.

A fifth centre in Choa Chu Kang will begin operations from next month.

Migrant workers living in dorms are currently allowed to visit recreation centres up to three times a week for up to four hours. An average of more than 16,000 workers have booked multiple visits to these centres each week.