All new migrant worker dormitories will have to meet improved standards to strengthen resilience against future pandemics and enhance liveability, announced the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in a press release on Sep. 17, 2021.
The new standards were co-developed with the Ministry of National Development (MND) and the Ministry of Health (MOH), and carried out in consultation with public health and infectious diseases experts, employers, dormitory operators, and migrant workers themselves.
The improved standards come after the outbreak of Covid-19 cases in dormitories last year.
More spacious rooms and en-suite toilets
MOM said that the improved standards are meant to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases in dormitories, and enhance living conditions.
More spacious rooms, with at least 4.2 square metres living space per resident, up from 3.5 square metres, will be implemented.
Beds will be spaced at least one-metre apart.
Room occupancy will be capped at 12 residents per room, an improvement from now, where there is no cap on the number of residents per room, although most rooms currently have 12 to 16 residents "in practice".
Each dormitory room must also have an en-suite bathroom with a ratio of one toilet, bathroom, and sink per six residents. This means that for a room of 12 residents, there must be two toilets, two bathrooms, and two sinks.
In addition, all rooms and common areas will have Wi-Fi coverage, to allow workers to communicate with their families and friends.
MOM added that dormitory rooms and toilets will also be better ventilated, with each toilet having at least one exhaust and an adequate number of fans spaced throughout the room.
This is to provide "sufficient air circulation", said the ministry.
If air-conditioning is installed, it must come with a filter of at least MERV14 rating, to reduce the risk of transmission in enclosed areas.
In addition, the capacity of isolation facilities and requirements to facilitate wastewater surveillance will be increased to improve the early detection and quick isolation of unwell residents.
New dormitories will have more than 10 isolation beds per 1,000 bed spaces, as compared to the current arrangement of one isolation bed per 1,000 bed spaces.
An additional 15 isolation beds per 1,000 bed spaces will also be stood up during a pandemic, said MOM.
Communal facilities, such as cooking, dining and laundry facilities, will also now be segmented, for dedicated use by no more than 120 residents per section.
The new standards will apply to all new dormitories, including purpose-built dormitories (PBDs), factory-converted dormitories (FCDs), construction temporary quarters (CTQs) and temporary occupation licence quarters (TOLQs), stipulated MOM.
Two new sites at Kranji and Jalan Tukang
In the press release, MOM also announced that the government will also be launching two new purpose-built dormitory sites at Kranji and Jalan Tukang within the next three years.
Both sites combined will provide at least 12,500 beds, with the Kranji site offering at least 10,000 beds while the Jalan Tukang site will be able to house at least 2,500 beds.
The government will construct and own these dormitories while the day-to-day operations are managed by dormitory operators, to ensure the timely construction of the sites in the "current economic climate", added MOM.
The ministry also advised that some dormitories may have to be located closer to residential areas in order to maximise limited land area.
"We hope that Singaporeans will continue to give their support to these workers who build and maintain our homes and public spaces."
MWC: Changes are welcome, will continue to solicit feedback
In response to the announcement by MOM, the Migrants' Workers' Centre (MWC) said in a Facebook post on Sep. 17 that it welcomes the changes, and will continue to monitor the ground for feedback from migrant workers for the continual review of the new standards.
"It will take some time for all dormitory operators to come into compliance but even so, we know for certain now enhanced standards will become a reality. As the new standards come into effect, the MWC also commits to continuing our crusade against those that flout our rules and standards."
Follow and listen to our podcast here
Top image via Joshua Lee