‘VR’ is a 35 year old shipyard worker who took loans to pay for his father’s medical bills and funeral earlier this year. VR’s father battled with kidney issues and eventually passed away in July this year. VR took some of this loan with interest and is seeking support to pay off this debt by the end of this year, which is also when he plans to leave Singapore to head home and start a family.
Nature of Need
VR has taken a loan of a total of INR 5 lakhs (~SGD 8,620), and has paid off INR 2 lakhs (~SGD 3,450) of this loan. The remaining sum is approximately SGD 5,200 and he is seeking support for SGD 3,900 as he has a payment plan to cover the rest of this amount through his monthly salary of SGD 650.
VR’s loan was taken from personal friends and people in his village, and his mother also had to pawn her gold to afford her husband’s healthcare costs. With his monthly salary, he has to support his mother and grandmother, pay back his loans, and cover his daily expenses in Singapore.
Many workers like VR are in difficult situations where they are breadwinners for their family, yet cannot physically be present during times of need due to their work commitments thousands of miles away in Singapore. Unfortunately, VR only was able to apply for leave and reach India a day after his father had passed.
The low wages of migrant workers means that they often must take loans to cover any untoward expenses, such as illness and death in the family – as VR had to do here. On top of grief and bereavement, these events push migrant workers further into debt and financial precarity. Even when borrowed from friends and relatives rather than moneylenders, this debt tends to add another layer of stress due to the pressure it puts on personal relationships.
VR shared with us how dangerous his work is everyday as a cleaner at an oil chemical plant, where he operates a high pressure hydrojet to clean shipping equipment. He has worked in Singapore for 4 years and yet his monthly salary is only SGD 650, despite the risk undertaken & the skill set required for this job. In many parts of the world, high-risk jobs like these have risk pay factored into one’s salary. This is not the case in Singapore for most migrant labourers, mainly due to 1) Singapore’s use-and-discard treatment of migrant workers, which is emboldened by our labour policies; and 2) the lack of independent labour unions that can collectively bargain worker’s wages. As we organise towards systemic change, we must continue to make sure no individual is left behind in a system that places profit over people. We seek your solidarity in supporting VR’s dream of returning home debt-free so he can start his future family with a peace of mind.
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