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What Methods Can Singapore Use to Further Protect Its Foreign Domestic Workers and Eradicate Forced Labor? 26 26 Executive Summary Globally, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has estimated that in 2016, 24.9 million people were victims of forced labor (ILO a). The domestic work sector is dispropor- tionately affected with the highest prevalence of forced labor (ILO b, 11). The nature of this work—primarily taking place within private homes—pairedwith foreign domestic workers’ legal status as migrants leaves them particularly vulnerable to labor and human rights violations. Especially in Asia and the Pacific, where 3.9 out of 1000 people are victims of forced labor, the issue deserves some attention (ILO, b, 10). In this region, Singapore, a rapidly developing country, and one of the world’s most competitive economies, employs the second largest number of foreign domestic workers (FDWs). Despite their crucial role in society, and in Singapore’s successful de- velopment story, FDWs do not enjoy adequate protection and inmany cases are victims to exploitative labor conditions. Al- though the Singapore government has already aimed to im- prove the working conditions of FDWs, there is still a lot of work to be done. Singapore needs to firmly address the root causes which contribute to this issue by leveling the playing field so migrant workers are equal under the law, creating a legal framework which protects FDWs, and amplifying voices to ensure the protection of FDWs and guarantee their ability to speak up outside their households. The recommendations set out in this report aim to improve upon the protection of FDWs and the eradication of forced labor by 2030. Issues and Challenges A recent report by the Singapore-based Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME), which sheltered 800 FDWs in 2018, stated that FDWs continue to suffer from issues such as “overwork, emotional abuse, salary-related claims to illegal deployment, inadequate provision of food, a lack or denial of rest days, unreasonable Policy Brief on the Future of Work MARTINDALE CENTER restrictions on communication, the denial of sick leave and/ or medical treatment, poor living conditions, withholdment of passports, and even physical and sexual abuse of harassment” (HOME b). Many of these issues are defined as indicators of forced labor by the ILO. The report further suggests that this is only the tip of the iceberg, and that many more domestic workers who are victim to forced labor have not found a way to report their employers. If we want to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.7 of eradicating forced labor by 2030, action must be taken. In Singapore, there are several causes at the root of the issue, including lack of adequate protection of human rights for FDWs and discrimination. According to the UN Human Rights Bodies Database, Singapore has only signed four of the nine international instruments focusing on human rights. It has not ratified the 2014 Protocol to the ILO Forced Labour Convention No. 29, 1930, and actually denounced the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention No. 105, 1957. Furthermore, it is one of the few countries that did not vote in favor of ILO Convention No. 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers (Ratifications for Singapore). While Singapore generally does ensure that the human rights of its citizens are protected, it fails to extend this protection to FDWs. In Singapore, it is observed that human rights are not considered to be universal (Yeoh). NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, continue to be concerned about the strict restrictions put in place regard- ing citizen’s freedom of expression, assembly, and movement. This is also evident in the government’s treatment of FDWs; a HOME report found that 74% of FDWs faced restrictions on their movement at least once and that 64% of employers hold their workers’ passports (HOME a, 2). The lack of protec- These Martindale Center Policy Briefs on the Future of Work were prepared by teams of students and young professionals serving as Research Externs with the Lehigh University / United Nations Partnership working in affiliation with the International Labour Organization. Authors: Charlotte Brown • Amanda Gorbea • Kaithlyn Hendricks • Hasan Jashari • Alexandra McNamara • Beatriz Zamora Series Editor: Stephen Cutcliffe, Ph.D. February 2021 What Methods Can Singapore Use to Further Protect Its Foreign Domestic Workers and Eradicate Forced Labor?