Bosses Are Getting Foreign Workers to Queue Up for Bak Kwa…Again


It’s Chinese New Year once again, and bosses are once again paying their foreign workers to queue for Bak Kwa on their behalf. Somehow, this keeps happening, even though migrant worker groups had been raising concerns about this for years.

At New Bridge Road, the queues had started hours before a popular Bak Kwa store opened. As early as the night before, foreign workers can already be seen queueing. Some are seen lying on cardboard, and others sat on stools found nearby. According to reports, they began queueing since 11 pm the night before, and the stores only open for business the next morning at 9 am.

Over 10 Hours of Queueing, But This Time, They’re Paid

That’s a total of 10 hours of queueing, and through the night as well. Humanitarian organisations have received complaints in the past years of foreign workers being exploited in this manner without any remuneration, but thankfully this year they seem to be paid. It’s $5 per hour, and a half day off, to be precise.

Ok, it’s basically overtime pay for doing next to nothing for a few hours, when the workers’ normal jobs are dangerous physical activities in construction. If you look at it this way it seems this is a pretty decent deal. The foreign workers themselves think so too, reflecting that they were happy to make some extra money on the side. If the workers are happy to be paid for this, no big deal, right?

Migrant Workers’ Groups Disagree

Migrant workers’ groups don’t seem to think so. As (mostly) Chinese office workers sitting in air-conditioned rooms daily, they seemed compelled to express their concern over the foreign workers being paid for some extra work.

To be fair, these organisations do have a point. It is very easy for employers to abuse their power and compel workers to do these things, and they could totally just not pay the workers. This imbalance of power is quite problematic and can result in exploitation.

Officially, according to the Ministry of Manpower, foreign workers are only allowed to perform jobs as stated in their work pass applications, which most decidedly do not include the job of queueing for Bak Kwa.


Even if the bosses are happy to pay, and the workers are happy to do it, seriously, this still goes against everything we know and love about queueing culture in Singapore. You want to queue, you come down and sit here yourself, like the rest of us normal people who can’t afford to pay others.

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