Singapore's migrant workers struggle to get paid

Updated 0033 GMT (0833 HKT) February 25, 2018

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Singapore (CNN)It's a bustle of activity in the drop-in center. Men line up to sign their names in a book and claim tokens for a free meal, redeemable at cheap restaurants in Singapore's Little India district.

They're all migrants without jobs in the city-state; many are seeking help to reclaim unpaid wages. The drop-in center, run by migrant rights organization Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), can see up to 500 men each night.
Singapore's constant construction boosts the economy, and relies on a large foreign labor force. As of June 2017, Singapore had about 296,700 migrant workers in the construction industry, from countries like Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and China, according to the Ministry of Manpower.
Working in a city without a minimum wage, they earn a fraction of the salaries of white collar employees who toil in offices the migrant workers construct. Despite the city state's reputation for technocratic efficiency, for some it's a huge struggle to get paid.

Dreams punctured

Sardar Md Insan Ali from Bangladesh hoped his earnings from Singapore's construction sector would translate to a better life for his parents, wife and young child.
    He arrived in 2017, and was promised he would be paid S$1,600 (US$1,173) a month.
    After his arrival, he said he discovered his wage would be just S$18 ($13) per day. His employer chose not to pay him in full for eight months.
    "My boss would only lend us S$200 here, S$300 there [to get by]," Sardar said. The 31-year-old would keep a little money for himself and send the rest to Bangladesh.
    Labourers work at a construction site in the financial district in Singapore on August 8, 2014.