The iconic Merlion in Singapore. Photo: Google Maps

A report published on Tuesday by rights groups from Singapore and Hong Kong concluded that Singapore’s foreign domestic workers were at risk of forced labor.

However, authorities in Singapore have claimed that the report does not “accurately reflect” the conditions under which workers labor.

On Tuesday, the Singapore-based Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) and Hong Kong-based anti-trafficking group Liberty Shared released their findings about the prevalence of forced labor in Singapore’s domestic work sector, Shin Min Daily News reported.

According to HOME, between April 2017 and March last year they received 2,832 complaints from foreign domestic workers. Some 483 of these related to overwork, while a similar number (472 cases) related to verbal abuse and a further 342 were about salary issues (342 cases).

The group said these complaints were “strong indicators of forced labor”.

One case of ‘forced labor’ quoted by HOME involved a worker who had been with an employer for nearly a decade. She claimed the employer had withheld more than S$40,000 in wages – and allegedly forced the woman to work from 7am till 11pm each day.

The victim was not given rest days or allowed to have a mobile phone. Her passport and work permit had long been confiscated since she was recruited.

However, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower said the report did not “accurately reflect the employment and working conditions of foreign domestic workers” in the country.

A spokesperson said forced labor was actually a complex issue.

“Meeting one or more of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) forced labor indicators may not necessarily mean that a worker is indeed in a forced labor situation,” the spokesperson said.

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