Singapore today said it will not stop the hiring of foreign workers from South Asia - most of whom come from India and Bangladesh - following the city-state's worst outbreak of violence in over 40 years.
Giving this assurance, Singapore's Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin allayed the concerns raised by several workers during dialogue and outreach sessions in the aftermath of the Little India riot on December 8.
Tan told media here that many of the workers have denounced what happened in Little India, a precinct of Indian-origin businesses, eateries and pubs where most of the South Asian workers take their Sunday break, triggered by an Indian national's death in a bus accident. "Certainly the riot is very serious, something that shouldn't be taken lightly but I don't believe that we should generalise and therefore label all South Asian foreign workers as being of the same ilk. It doesn't represent that at all," Channel News Asia quoted Tan as saying.
"Many of them (south Asian workers) denounce the actions, many of them are shocked at what happened, and this is not an action that represents the community. I think it would be wrong for us to conclude that, and it would be inappropriate for us as a nation to look at it that way," the minister said.
Tan pointed out that South Asian workers have contributed significantly to Singapore and have "made a difference to our lives" in their own ways. "In very meaningful ways, they are earning a living, working hard, and they are very much part of our community even though they are foreigners," Tan said.
Tan also shared some perceptions foreign workers have about working in Singapore. Tan cited a survey conducted by Singapore's Manpower Ministry in 2011 among 3,500 foreign workers, and noted that nine out of 10 were relatively content with their life in the country while seven out of 10 would recommend to their family and friends to come and work in Singapore.
Also, about 80 per cent of these workers from South Asia wanted to continue working in Singapore.
Tan said even from his conversations with foreign workers, he has noted that by and large, many of them are comfortable with things in Singapore.
The Manpower Ministry has so far dealt with about 3,700 complaints, which was a very small percentage of the nearly 950,000 to 970,000 work permit holders employed in Singapore, he said.