Booming Singapore luring SAsia, Thai construction workers

SINGAPORE, May 16, 2008 (AFP) – T. Junardhan is helping to install the plumbing at a luxury shopping and residential tower rising in Singapore’s prime Orchard Road tourist belt. He can also balance your books if the need arises. Junardhan, an Indian with a degree in accountancy, is one of almost 150,000 foreigners labouring in Singapore’s booming construction sector.

Some complain of poor living conditions, over-work, homesickness and non-payment of wages.

But they say the risks and challenges are outweighed by one thing: the lure of money far greater than anything they could earn at home.

Junardhan, 23, of Andhra Pradesh state, said he has an accountancy degree from a college near his home town but low wages in that profession drove him to put down his pen and pick up his tools overseas.

Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower says about 145,000 foreigners are employed in the construction sector, where two multi-billion-dollar casino developments, subway lines, residential and other projects have generated high demand for labourers.

The ministry did not provide a breakdown by nationality but many of the workers come from India as well as Bangladesh and Thailand.

The Thai embassy said 47,000 of its nation