Singapore’s relationship with migrant workers is long, unique and, most importantly, symbiotic.
Migrant workers in sectors such as construction, marine and transport form the economic, infrastructural and developmental backbone of Singapore.
Migrant domestic workers play a crucial role in increasing the participation of women in the workforce and helping to take care of our children and seniors.
The pandemic has highlighted migrant workers’ plight and the hardships they face during these formidable and challenging times.
It is heartening to see Singaporeans express appreciation to our migrant friends through public events, recreational activities and giveaways, with some events centred on International Migrants Day on Dec 18.
There are also various non-profit organisations that represent their needs and ensure their fair and legal employment.
Still, many in our society are not only oblivious to the indispensable role they play, but also seem to take them for granted.
There have been numerous incidents of residents harbouring various misconceptions about the culture and behaviour of migrant workers.
Even in the pre-pandemic days, I observed people keeping a distance from them and refusing to share enclosed spaces such as lifts.
Declaring a Migrant Workers’ Day public holiday would be a way to elevate our understanding of and appreciation for this important group.
It would show our deep gratitude towards these often unsung and unseen workers, and show them that Singapore residents stand in solidarity with them.
A public holiday would also enable our young children to grow up with an awareness of the immense role played by thousands of migrant workers who form the backbone of multiple sectors.