Improved standards for new migrant worker dormitories in S'pore

SINGAPORE – The authorities have finalised a set of improved standards for all newly built migrant worker dormitories, including a cap of 12 residents per room and lowering the number of people who have to share toilets.

This comes after a year-long review and pilot scheme where new living standards were trialled in semi-permanent Quick Build Dormitories (QBDs) that were built to reduce density in existing dorms last year.

The finalised set of new standards will apply to all new dormitories, including purpose-built dormitories (PBDs), factory-converted dormitories, construction temporary quarters and temporary occupation licence quarters.

In a joint statement on Friday (Sept 17), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Ministry of National Development (MND) and Ministry of Health (MOH) said they had refined the standards based on feedback, the experience with the QBDs, and managing the Covid-19 outbreak in the dormitories.

The living conditions of migrant workers in dormitories came under close scrutiny after the massive outbreak of Covid-19 infections last year.

However, this set of standards does not go as far as the ones that were mooted. Last June, the authorities had proposed a maximum of 10 beds to a dorm room, with only single-deck beds spaced at least 1m apart allowed.

However, the finalised set of standards will allow double-decker beds and raises the occupancy cap slightly to 12.

Similarly, while en-suite toilet facilities will be mandatory for every room, they will be shared among six residents, instead of five as previously suggested.

Still, this is an improvement from current standards, where 12 to 16 workers share a dorm room, with no limits on room capacity.

In most dorms now, about 15 residents share a set of toilet facilities, which can be en suite or shared among different rooms.

Dorms currently have to provide a minimum 3.5 sq m of living space, excluding shared facilities such as en-suite kitchens, toilets and yard spaces.

With the latest set of standards, this requirement goes up to a minimum of 4.2 sq m of living space for new dorms.

New dorms must also meet additional criteria, such as ventilation requirements and the segmentation of communal facilities, which had not been suggested previously.

At least one exhaust fan has to be installed per toilet, along with an adequate number of fans in dorm rooms to ensure sufficient air circulation.

If air-conditioning is provided in the room, operators for new dorms must also install medical-grade air filters.

The occupancy limit per dorm floor remains at 240 residents, but new dorms must be able to be divided into self-contained sections of 120 residents.

Communal facilities in new dorms – such as cooking, dining and laundry areas – must also be designed for dedicated use by up to 120 residents per section.

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All new dorm rooms must also provide free Wi-Fi, which is currently offered only in common areas.

Finally, newly built dorms must have at least 10 isolation beds for every 1,000 bed spaces, up from just one per 1,000 bed spaces now.

They must also be able to add another 15 more isolation beds per 1,000 bed spaces during pandemics, compared with the 19 additional isolation beds per 1,000 bed spaces required now.

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Two new PBDs with at least 12,500 beds will be launched next year and are expected to be completed in three years.

They are located in Kranji and Jalan Tukang.

The Government will construct and own these dormitories, while the day-to-day operations will be managed by a dormitory operator.

This is new operating model from the current one, where land is released for commercial dorms operators to bid, build or operate.

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