As signs of normalcy slowly return to Singapore, many of us will look back at 2020 with bittersweet memories: missed graduations, work from home, long distance relationships left in a limbo, and fewer social interactions.
On the societal level, the COVID-19 pandemic has also drawn sharp attention to the plight of migrant workers in Singapore. Cut-off from family and isolated in dedicated dorms, many found themselves in a serious lurch about their emotional, financial, and job security derailed by COVID-19.
We sat down with students from Jupiter Agency (Year 3 Mass Communication students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Film and Media studies) to find out more about their journey running a ground-up youth campaign that advocates for migrant worker welfare in Singapore:
What is the importance of communicating the intricacies of migrant worker welfare to the youth, and how does it make an impact?
The migrant worker community is part of our social fabric. These are the hands that built our city. They take on lower-wage, manual labour jobs in Singapore and we must acknowledge the contributions that our migrant workers have made, and will continue to make, in building Singapore.
We also hope to highlight their efforts so that youths understand the importance of ensuring their well-being. It is our moral responsibility as human beings to ensure their basic needs are met.
Where did you get the inspiration for your campaign, and what was the experience like as students planning and implementing a campaign for the first time with the support of MOM?
Our campaign seeks to displace the misconceptions that youths may have about the well-being of migrant workers in Singapore.
We wanted to use a story with vibrant illustrations of a character that represents a migrant worker going on an adventure during our campaign, and named him Alfa which is an abbreviation of our campaign name (A Land For All). That was how the character Alfa was born.
It has been an eye-opening experience for us as we gained valuable insights on how the relevant stakeholders contribute to maintaining and improving migrant workers’ well-being in Singapore.
In the course of your campaign, what were some of the various obstacles faced by migrant workers you came across?
Migrant workers may face obstacles like not being paid their salary in full or on time by their employers, not having proper housing and living conditions, food-related issues and mental health issues. Our campaign addresses all of these issues and highlights the remedies in place through the system of support implemented by MOM and its partners such as the Migrant Workers’ Centre.
One example of how the MOM plays a significant role in maintaining migrant worker well-being is how they maintain living standards in dormitories for migrant workers by ensuring enforcement actions, licensing requirements, as well as engagement and educational efforts targeted at employers.
What advice would you have for other voluntary groups working to build grassroots awareness on the welfare of migrant workers?
Non-governmental organisations and relevant stakeholders should encourage youths to come up with their own initiatives because it not only benefits the migrant workers directly but also helps to shift perspectives that Singaporeans have of them — from one that neglects the importance of maintaining their well-being to one that cares for the their community.
Students can volunteer within their means and find a cause that resonates with them the most. One should also tap on their strengths to help contribute to migrant worker well-being. For example, gathering a group of like-minded individuals with different specialisations (e.g. Media, Business, Arts etc.) and leveraging on the skill sets from students of different fields.
They could even carry out simple gestures like participating in a food distribution activity as these small acts of kindness will not only make us feel good, but also make the migrant workers feel more welcome in our society!