Baluchar Town In Bangladesh Loves S’pore For Being A Land Of Opportunity

We’ve heard a lot of stories about migrant workers in Singapore but what happens after they return home?

CNA Insider’s documentary explores the lives of former migrant workers in Baluchar, Bangladesh. Many of the townsfolk worked as construction workers to earn money and realise their dreams in Singapore.

Some people’s lives ended in success while others accrued debt and returned against their will. Here are their stories.

Crockery shop inspired by NTUC Fairprice

Salahuddin’s story begins as a former steelworker at a foundry firm.

Source

His S$1,200/month salary was, fortunately, enough money to put his 3 children through school. Life was good until he broke his left leg and had a slipped disk due to a workplace accident.

bangladeshSource

In 2013, he returned home because he could only perform light work for lower pay. He collected S$40,000 in compensation due to his company’s insurance scheme.

bangladesh 1Source

Since there were no crockery and electronics stores in his hometown, he built one himself.

bangladesh 2Source

Today, his crockery shop stands out because of its bright lights, neatly arranged products, and clean white aisles. For Singaporeans, the setup may seem familiar because it was inspired by NTUC Fairprice’s aesthetic.

bangladesh 3Source

While shopping in Singapore, he realised that customers saw the goods and had an enjoyable shopping experience. He implemented what he learned from our local shops in his very own business.

bangladesh 4Source

His store is such a hit that he is currently making plans to expand.

Waiting for another chance

Not every story ends with a happily ever after.

Mohammed Yusof worked as a town council cleaner for a decade. He was sent packing because Work Permit holders could only stay for up to 10 years.

Source

Mohammed continuously applied to jobs for the past two years. Unfortunately, his Work Permit was repeatedly rejected for unknown reasons.

Source

No job is available in his hometown so he is relying on his savings to survive. While he was able to buy land thanks to his savings, he might sell it if he can’t find a job.

Source

He’s hoping for another opportunity to work in Singapore for 3 to 4 years. Until then, his life will remain stalled.

Source

The man with a business plan

Shahidul is a man with a plan.

Before heading to Singapore’s greener pastures, he already owned a wood business. To grow and modernise his sawmill, he needed to save S$3,000.

Source

In 1999, the then 45-year-old worked in Singapore for two years to help build Jurong Island.

Source

Shahidul described his high-risk profession,

Some broke their hands and legs. If we fell down, then we would die.

Despite the harsh working conditions, Shahidul believed that his salary of S$400 to S$600 was worth it. Unfortunately, he was sent home after two years by his agents without an explanation.

Source

His circumstance didn’t deter his plan. He might not have stayed long in Singapore but he accomplished his goal to save money, buy more land, and open a sawmill.

Source

The town locals love his business because they can easily purchase wood for their houses and buildings.

Ending in debt

Some migrant workers risk everything to pursue the Singapore dream and Jamal’s story is the same.

When he was 20 years old, he got in touch with an agent that demanded S$4,000 in exchange for a job. He couldn’t afford to pay himself so his parents mortgaged their home and borrowed money from friends.

Source

The promised job was nowhere to be found. Once Jamal reached Singapore, he didn’t work for a month and opted for irregular jobs in cleaning and construction to survive for the next 19 months.

bangladesh 8Source

He recalls,

There was once I went without work for 10 to 12 days.

His life in Singapore ended when he was told that there was no more work and was asked to return home.

bangladesh 9Source

The short stint in Singapore was not enough for Jamal to pay back his debt. To make more money, he loaned more to fund a hardware business and a private transportation venture which both failed.

bangladesh 10Source

He is currently S$16,000 to S$24,000 in debt.

Source

While Jamal’s story didn’t end with success, he never regretted the opportunity to work abroad. He loved his life and hopes to take his kids to the city someday to visit.

bangladesh 11Source

The land of opportunity

Singapore is considered a land of opportunity for many migrant workers.

While some stories end in success, a fair amount also leads to failures and debt. Many migrant workers risk their lives for years to build the city’s massive structures so we hope that they gain more opportunities back home once their chapter in Singapore ends.

Do you know a migrant worker from Baluchar, Bangladesh? Got any stories to share from migrant workers? Let us know in the comments below.

Featured image adapted from YouTube