Work or Slavery?

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In Singapore, a group of 400 regular workers that were agitated because of a deadly accident on the road set fire to several cars and violently attacked police men and others that ended up injuring at least 18 people. Those who were there to see the incident say that this riot was the first in a very long time. What caused the outrage is that a large bus unexpectedly hit and killed a 33-year-old Indian man in the neighborhood, which caused the large crowd of men to attack the bus with sticks and garbage cans. Authorities tried to get the situation under control by sending out over 200 police officers to the scene of the drama, although no guns were used to tame the angered men. Police arrested 27 people. Since this is nothing common for the citizens of Singapore to deal with, the police are going to do whatever it takes to identify those who caused violence and they will be dealt with the full force of the law.

When things like this happen, it causes fear in the public. This specific incident has caused concern for some among the workforce. In recent years, some laborers who have particularly low pay have rebelled by protesting against other employees by striking illegally. This is also an awakening for the government because it’s only a matter of time before things get out of control. Currently, economic times are tough and unemployment rates are high. This is also a country where 40 percent of the work force is being imported from overseas. These people are coming to Singapore because they think it is their chance to make enough money to live off well. But these workers are finding themselves laying low with multiple injuries from workplace abuse and an uncertain future.

For many migrant workers, their time in Singapore involves a frustrating mess of sketchy kickbacks, dodgy contracts, exploitation and mistreatment. The rules enforced in their work permits prevent them from marrying any Singaporean citizens, unless approved by the government, and also from changing jobs. With permission to be in Singapore conditional upon their employer, workers are discouraged from having any say in what they receive. If you complain too much, you might just find your work permit cancelled and your right to remain in Singapore taken away. An unlucky worker might even find himself forcibly removed from living in Singapore. Unfortunately, this gives employers an enormous amount of power over their migrant workers, and this is what causes the anger that leads to random acts of public violence. It’s unlikely that the reliance on low-wage employees will end anytime soon. Eager to continue Singapore’s upward movement in terms of economic success, the government finds itself balancing their vision for the future with concerns for the welfare of such mistreated workers.