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Singapore: Stories of Migrant Workers

The number of foreign workers in Singapore continues to rise but little is known about their working and housing conditions. Curious to know the stories of migrant workers in prosperous Singapore, three interns conceptualized the ‘Made by Migrants’ project and documented the daily activities of construction workers for two weeks

Made by Migrants is a collaborative project undertaken by a group of interns from BBH Singapore. The project aims to look past the skin-deep perceptions of migrant workers by revealing their motivations, stories and dreams.

Ian, one of the team’s members from Manchester will live and work with migrant construction workers on site for two weeks. He plans to document his experience and those of the men around him to share with the outside world.

Kirsten Han interviewed the group and reviewed their project

It’s impossible not to cross paths with a migrant worker these days. We see them everywhere: fixing our roads, cutting the grass, clambering over construction sites. Everyone seems to have something to say about these workers, be it good or bad. They’ve been discussed in the context of economics, immigration and human rights. But who are these workers? What are their names? What did they used to do? Why have them come here, and who have they left behind?

Made By Migrants is a project that seeks to, if not answer, at least shed a little light on these questions

Through these stories we’re able to identify and relate to these workers and their motivations, and to realise that they are much more than rubber boots and fluorescent safety vests; they are people just like us, people with families and responsibilities and hopes.

Migrant workers' dormitory room

An ordinary day for a construction worker

Below is a video interview with a 22-year-old Chinese worker

Here is their interview with a Thai worker in Singapore

“Singapore so different from Thailand. Lots and lots of families piled high. Back home, I had my own lane, land and farm.”

I ask him about his parents.

“They were farmers and reasonably successful. But then we lost a lot of money and started to struggle. At the time, I was 16 and fit from working on the farm so I began competing in Muay Thai. For five years, I was a fighter.”

“I lost everything, they want money. I did not have and I have to leave country. I stay in Singapore since and rarely seen my children. I enjoy Singapore, opportunity to work, I am thankful for, but here, it is money first, heart second. I can educate my children thanks to this work and hope the money I save can build a small chapel to help people who need it back home.”

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