Have you ever wondered how they survive in this concrete jungle?

Did you guys still remember a Bangladeshi eating his lunch while squatting on the ground floor of a bus stop made the headlines. Why not choose the bus stop seats? He was scared of making them dirty!


Photo:Andriko Ali

Let’s call him Razi shall we? He is among thousands of Bangladeshis who leave their families to work in Singapore as a low-waged construction worker. Have you ever wondered how they ‘survive’ in this concrete jungle? Well, read on…

Razi has landed in Singapore, but only after passing his entire life savings to his agent. That is in exchange for a good-paying job in Singapore. He probably borrowed from his entire village in Dhaka, his parents, his brother, his uncle’s brother’s wife’s cousin. He is determined to recoup all that and start “earning” money after five years.

He’s got a job at a construction site – where’s he tasked to place wire meshes. It is a dangerous job. After all, a 24-year-old Bangladeshi died recently at a Tampines construction site. The landing wasn’t secure, and the bars were sent flying towards him, piercing the poor guy. He died instantly.

But back to Ravi. He is drawing a monthly salary of $800. Maybe $1300 including OT. His dorm is one that isn’t suitable for human beings to live in. It is like a pig sty. Six to eight workers cramped into a small HDB room. He gets a day’s rest on Sunday, and public holidays of course. He will take a bus to Little India, and find his little personal space, waiting for his friends to come.


A survey last year revealed that over nine in 10 Bangladeshi migrant workers are given unclean and unhygienic food to eat from caterers. Many packets of food did not have labels indicating when it should be consumed. Often, lunch would be lots of white rice, curry that has gone bad, fish with scales unremoved. They sorely lack in nutrition value, and workers unsurprisingly often complain of stomachaches. Ravi has no choice as a meal outside would cost around $5. He would rather use a caterer, who charges around $2.


Alcohol is prohibited here, no thanks to the Little India riots 3 years ago. The optimal choice for beer…well…has to be Kingfisher. It is at $3.50 per can. With 8% alcohol, it is their little treat that comes after a tough work week. Kena scold by supervisor? Drink to drown your sorrows. It’s easy and straightforward. But the best will come on payday. A bottle of fine whiskey. Wah, just like a bonus payout!

What’s for entertainment? Well, the two casinos here loh. They come in here for the free coffee and biscuits also. But they like a flutter or two. Some got carried away, squandering their entire month of salary away. Ravi once lost $200 in a game of dice. He was so affected by it that he couldn’t eat for days. That was like almost a week’s worth of wages. He has since controlled his gambling habits. He will go in and just enjoy the ambience, look at the spinning reels…just for fun…just for leisure.

Or he can go look at the girls at the nearby Sentosa beach. They will be sun-tanning, skimpily dressed. Bikinis! And they can stand there until the sun goes down. It is a free ‘show’!


News of their home can be difficult to obtain here. There’s no Bangla newspaper. The only way is to use the internet, of course. Or they can try Banglar Kantha. It is a Bengali newspaper, and targets the Bangladeshi community in Singapore. It provides them ample news back in their homeland.


Address: 5001 Beach Rd, Singapore 199588
Phone: 6247 7001

Where’s the place to go if they have been mistreated? The Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2). It is a non-profit organization, and runs many different programs for foreign workers in Singapore. They provide free meals and law advice too. A Bangladeshi who needs help desperately can go there.

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