Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



Harbir Singh


  • Singapore is one of the largest hosting countries of migrant workers in the world, with up to 1.4 million migrant workers, mainly hailing from Southeast Asian countries with less opportunities for high-paying employment like the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. This population, and the remittances they send, are crucial to the economies of both the host country and the home country, not to mention the individual families that rely on the steady incomes earned abroad and sent home. Historically, migrant workers (MWs) have very little access to financial services; the majority are unbanked and rely on black market providers which specifically target migrants for short-term loans and remittances. However, cross-border money transfer is an intricate, heavily-regulated industry with many actors, and recently is gaining much attention given the increasing financial transactions each year and subsequent profit opportunity for any who can facilitate those transactions. This research seeks to examine the current status, barriers, and potential solutions of the financial inclusion of migrant workers in Singapore, in the context of migrant workers throughout Asia. First, what is the extent of MWs’ financial inclusion or lack thereof, and what measurable impact does that have on their lives in terms of economic situation and social mobility? Second, who are the actors trying to increase their financial inclusion, what challenges are they facing (excessive regulation, low uptake due to lack of awareness or trust, etc.), and how can those barriers be eased?


financial inclusion, remittances, Singapore, migrant workers, labor, immigration, banking, financial literacy, domestic workers, Southeast Asia



Date Posted: 11 January 2022


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