Migrant workers in Singapore

Migrant workers in Singapore. Photo courtesy: Facebook/Koh Poh Koon

Migrant workers in Singapore are about to enjoy better social and recreational facilities, as the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has partnered up with the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) to operate three Recreation Centres — Penjuru, Terusan, and Tuas South — from August 1, 2024, for a three-year term.

A MOM release dated June 28 said that it “will be appointing external partners to operate Recreation Centres (RCs) to better meet the social and recreational needs of migrant workers. This is part of ongoing efforts to improve the diversity and quality of offerings at the RCs.”

NTUC is the first such external partner, as it “has a good understanding of migrant workers’ needs”, said the press release.

Koh Poh Koon, Singapore minister
Koh Poh Koon, Singapore Senior Minister of State (MOM & MSE). Photo courtesy: LinkedIn/Poh-Koon Koh

A Facebook post by Koh Poh Koon, Singapore Senior Minister of State (MOM & MSE), also announced the news of the RC partnership yesterday. The post said: “I am confident that NTUC, with its strong operational experience and capabilities, will be able to enhance the diversity and quality of offerings at the three RCs.”

The minister added: “This collaboration with NTUC is our first step. We are keen to work with like-minded partners to operate more RCs in the future, ensuring they remain vibrant and attractive spaces for our migrant workers!”

According to the ministry press release: “Drawing from the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, MOM has made strides in building a more resilient migrant workforce, particularly in the areas of housing, healthcare, and recreation.

“Recreation Centres serve as welcoming spaces for our migrant workers, to meet their daily social and recreational needs. In the event of a pandemic, RCs can also be re-purposed to serve as testing and vaccination centres for migrant workers.”

The ministry statement elaborated: “Today, MOM operates six of the nine RCs located near large migrant worker dormitory catchment areas. As the social and recreational needs of migrant workers continue to evolve, MOM is committed to work with stakeholders and partners to improve the quality of the RCs through four key thrusts:

  • Partner external operators to enhance diversity and quality of offerings;
  • Expand collaboration with non-governmental organisations (NGO) and community partners, with the RCs as a physical nexus;
  • Refurbish older RCs to ensure that the facilities and offerings are relevant and up to date; and
  • Explore and pilot new design concepts for RCs for the future.”
A Recreation Centre in Singapore
Migrant workers in Singapore unleash their creativity at a Recreation Centre. Photo courtesy: Facebook/Koh Poh Koon

Factors in appointing external partners

The release said: “MOM will appoint external partners with strong operational expertise to operate the RCs. These partners are expected to attract a vibrant mix of tenants as well as pilot innovative programmes at the RCs. This will increase the attractiveness of the RCs to our migrant workers and improve visitorship.”

About the first collaboration, it said: “For a start, MOM has appointed the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) to operate three RCs — Penjuru, Terusan, and Tuas South — from 1st August 2024 for three years. NTUC has a good understanding of migrant workers’ needs through the conduct of the migrant workers’ Settling-In Programme and strong operational experience in running the Migrant Workers’ Centre Recreation Club.

“In addition, NTUC can leverage its rich network of social enterprises and recreational offerings to enhance the attractiveness of the RCs.

“To ensure that RCs are attractive to migrant workers, who have lower spending power, MOM will disburse a grant to NTUC to support the operations of the three RCs. To receive the grant, NTUC must meet annual visitorship targets, as well as implement the required governance controls and financial and procurement procedures.”

Migrant workers buying grocery in Singapore
The Recreation Centres managed by NTUC will focus on being budget-friendly for migrants, who work for small wages. Photo courtesy: Facebook/Koh Poh Koon

About future plans in this area, the ministry statement said: “MOM will continue to transform and enrich the RC landscape in collaboration with our partners, so that RCs would be the preferred destination of migrant workers for their daily needs and on their rest days.”

MOM was also studying plans for larger RCs that could provide a wider range of offerings and bring together more migrant workers, said the release. The six Recreation Centres operated at present by MOM are:

  • Cochrane RC
  • Kranji RC
  • Penjuru RC
  • Sembawang RC
  • Terusan RC
  • Tuas South RC

Of the remaining three recreation centres, Kaki Bukit RC and Woodlands RC are privately operated; and the Migrant Workers’ Centre Recreation Club is operated by an NGO.