Past Event

Asia in Action: Migrant Worker Rights in Singapore: Advocacy, Legal Frameworks and Prospects for Change

December 7, 2022
8:00 PM - 9:30 PM
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Zoom Webinar

Debbie Fordyce, President of Transient Workers Council Too, and Laavanya Kathiravelu, Associate professor at Nanyang Technological University, will discuss their advocacy and research on migrant worker issues in Singapore. COVID-19 highlighted some of the structural problems faced by the large population of migrant workers in Singapore. Systemic problems include high recruitment costs, restricted job mobility, employer’s right to terminate the worker at will, and weak wage protection. Our speakers will address these issues and what might be done to protect the rights and needs of migrant workers in Singapore. 

Debbie Fordyce is the current president of Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), having volunteered with TWC2 for more than 15 years. She set up and manages the free meal program that offers daily meals and advice / referrals for male workers not permitted to work due to claims for injury compensation or salary non-payment. Through these daily discussions she has learned about the causes and the results of the recruitment process and the Singapore work permit system that causes indebtedness and job precocity, especially among Bangladesh workers in the construction and marine sectors. She also contributes to TWC2’s research, communications and public engagement teams.

Laavanya Kathiravelu is Associate Professor in the School of Social Sciences at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. Her research is at the intersections of international migration, race and ethnic studies and contemporary urban diversity, particularly in Asia and the Persian Gulf. Her first book was Migrant Dubai (Palgrave, 2016), which explored experiences of low wage migrant workers in the UAE. She has also published widely on issues of race, inequality and migration in Singapore. Prior to joining NTU, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. She was also a Fung Fellow at Princeton University between 2015-16. In 2019, she was recipient of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council Fellowship (SSHRF) and recognized as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons (TOYP) in the area of academic leadership. Laavanya is board member of migrant welfare organization, HOME as well as civil society group AWARE, whose aim is to advance gender equality. She comments regularly on public forums and through op-eds on issues of migration, race and diversity in Singapore. In 2022, she was a Fulbright Scholar based at the City University of New York (CUNY).

Moderator: Amy Freedman, Professor & Department Chair of Political Science at Pace University, and Associate Research Scholar, WEAI

Sponsors: WEAI Asia in Action, and NYSEAN

Contact Information

Sarah Jessup, Sreyneath Poole