Parliamentary Question, 14 Jan 2019
Ms Anthea Ong asked the Minister for Manpower (a) what steps are being taken to address and support the psychosocial needs of migrant and domestic workers in Singapore; (b) what are the main drivers of their psychological distress and mental illness; © which subgroups, in terms of nationality and sector, are at higher risk of mental illness; and (d) whether the current insurance schemes cover them in the event of a mental health condition.
Mrs Josephine Teo: Migrant workers may experience stress arising from being away from their families and having to adjust to a new cultures and work environments. In addition, they may have left their home countries for the first time.
In Singapore, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has put in place support measures to help foreign workers adjust to working in Singapore. These include educating them via the Settling-In Programme on matters such as Singapore’s social norms, their employment rights, and stress management. In addition, MOM works with stakeholders, including NGOs, to provide recreational facilities and stress management courses. The Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) and Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) also partner mental health advocacy organisations such as the Silver Ribbon to provide counselling services for foreign workers who need help.
The Institute of Mental Health sees a small number of foreign workers annually, and the trend has been stable over the past 3 years. Existing data does not indicate that foreign workers of a particular nationality or working in a particular industry have a higher risk of suffering mental illness.
Employers are responsible for the cost of medical treatment of their foreign workers, including expenses for mental health and mental illnesses. Medical insurance plans typically do not cover treatment for mental illness although some insurers allow employers to purchase an additional rider.
Anthea Ong is a Nominated Member of Parliament. (A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed by the President. They are not affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament.)
The multi-sector perspective that comes from her ground immersion of 12 years in different capacities helps her translate single-sector issues and ideas across boundaries without alienating any particular community/group. As an entrepreneur and with many years in business leadership, it is innate in her to discuss social issues with the intent of finding solutions, or at least of exploring possibilities.
She champions mental health, diversity and inclusion — and volunteerism in Parliament.