1,600 worker dorms to come under single law next year in move to contain disease outbreaks quickly

SINGAPORE – About 1,600 dormitories that can house about 440,000 migrant workers will be regulated under a single law from April 1 next year, to help the authorities contain disease outbreaks more quickly and potentially improve living standards within such facilities.

The Foreign Employee Dormitories Act (Feda) will be extended to cover smaller dormitories with seven beds or more. It currently applies only to 53 larger dorms that accommodate 1,000 or more workers – these dorms have 256,000 beds in all.

The move could also pave the way for improved living standards to be implemented across existing dorms, both large and small, though the transition to these requirements is still a work in progress.

Announcing the expansion of Feda on Tuesday, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said dormitories will fall under four licence classes depending on size.

All new dorms will have to follow a set of essential living standards – such as minimum space per resident, maximum room occupancy, cleanliness and ventilation – with larger dorms subject to tighter requirements on dormitory management, resident welfare and safety.

Existing smaller dorms do not have to upgrade their infrastructure for now, though they will have to meet some new requirements from next April.

For instance, Class 1 dorms with seven to 99 beds have to report incidents that affect the safety and health of their residents to the authorities. They also have to provide a list of their residents to MOM for contact tracing.

Commercial dorms with 100 to 299 beds have to submit regular reports on their dorm management practices to MOM.

Such Class 2 dorms also need to have fire drills and a contingency plan for public health outbreaks that includes infection control measures.

Class 3 dorms with 300 to 999 beds will have to deploy traffic marshals when directed by the authorities.

MOM said existing Class 4 dorms with 1,000 beds or more can continue to operate as usual as they are already licensed under Feda.

Smaller dorms have to apply for a provisional Feda licence from next January, which will be valid for up to for two years.

Senior Minister of State for Manpower Koh Poh Koon called the move a “significant step forward” in the Government’s efforts to improve workers’ living environments.