Asia

Singapore ministry criticised over 'migrant gaffe' Facebook post

This photo uploaded by the Singapore Ministry of Manpower shows Minister of State Teo Ser Luck lying on a bed of a migrant construction worker Image copyright Facebook: Singapore Ministry of Manpower
Image caption This photo posted by the Singapore Ministry of Manpower showed Minister of State Teo Ser Luck lying on a bed of a migrant construction worker

Singapore's Ministry of Manpower has drawn criticism on social media over a post about foreign workers.

A Facebook album uploaded to the ministry's official page featured a photograph of Minister of State Teo Ser Luck lying on a worker's dormitory bed.

It was accompanied by the caption: "I learnt that some workers prefer to sleep without a mattress as they are used to it back in their home country".

Mr Teo denied making that comment when contacted by the BBC.

In a later statement the ministry said an administrator wrote the caption, not Mr Teo.

The statement issued on behalf of the Ministry of Manpower said the caption would be removed and a clarification issued.

"We regret the unintended implications, and any misunderstanding that the post has caused," the statement said.

It said Mr Teo had visited the dormitory to mark International Migrants Day, and that it was "unfortunate" that the visit "was over-shadowed by this turn of events".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Thousands of migrants work in Singapore's booming construction industry

Singapore is home to hundreds of thousands of foreign workers brought in to work in the shipping and construction industries, jobs that not many Singaporeans are eager to take on.

Employers provide accommodation for migrant workers, however, advocacy groups have raised concern over their living conditions which can be crowded and unsanitary.

The post has drawn criticism among the country's vocal online community.

While some Facebook users defended the caption, others criticised Mr Teo for being "insensitive and condescending".

"Is your head so far up the ivory tower? Our politicians really need to reflect on how far out of touch they are with reality," said Facebook user Johnny Tang.

Jeff Chua suggested that most foreign workers made the choice to sleep without mattresses because of "bed bug infestations" in dormitories.

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Media captionThe BBC's Charlotte Glennie visits one of the newest dormitories for workers

A Facebook user criticised Mr Teo for his "million dollar salary" and using "migrant workers as a photo opportunity".

The most popular comment on the post however, came from Ibrahim Khalil, a foreign construction worker in Singapore.

"In our own homes, we sleep with mattresses. But in Singapore, it is due to the hot weather in our rooms, with (up to) 12 people. Sometimes dormitory management don't allow for more than two fans in the rooms," he said, adding that migrant workers like himself would be happier if they received a "more comfortable dormitory life".

Many of Singapore's politicians, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, maintain an active social media presence and are popular with internet users.

However, Mr Teo is not the first to have been criticised by some over what seemed like an insensitive post.

Minister Tan Chuan-Jin faced negative comments after he suggested in a Facebook post that some elderly people who collect cardboard as a way of making money, were doing it as a "form of exercise and activity".

Another politician Baey Yam Keng drew outrage after he condemned the Paris terror attacks in November by uploading a photo of himself standing next to the Eiffel Tower which some users thought was doctored - although he denied this.

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