Malaysia lockdown: Workers, bosses scramble to find temporary housing

Tim Beer1 Apr 2020

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As Malaysia embark on its second leg of national lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, some of the Malaysian workers in Singapore are now weighing up their options, which include going home, while their employers try to search for cheap hotels and rental flats or consider offering temporary loans to help them find a place to stay.

This comes as the Singapore government has decided to stop the temporary housing support it has given to such workers.

In fact, some affected employers are facing financial challenges to keep the Malaysian workers housed within the city-state.

Among them is Abba Maintenance Services owner Peter Peng, who previously opened up his own house to three Malaysian workers, reported Today Online.

He now rents a Housing Board flat in Bukit Merah to house five workers in need of accommodation.

Peng revealed that he will shoulder the monthly rental cost of between S$3,000 and $4,000, in the hopes that his employees will be motivated to do good work in return.

“If it comes to a point where we need the cleaners to share the burden with us, we will do it bit by bit and make the adjustments accordingly,” he added.

Toby Koh, Group Managing Director of security company Ademco Security, shared that his company tried to obtain extensions at the two hotels where his 26 Malaysian workers were staying, but failed to do so since the hotels were fully booked for the next 14 days.

His associated called up to 10 hotels, only to discover that rates had already gone up at some hotels, apparently to take advantage of the spike in demand.

Eventually, they settled for Yotel on Orchard Road, which charged around $60 per room.

Along with the $10 daily food subsidy provided by his firm to its workers, Koh noted that the total cost for his company hovers at around $15,000 for the additional two-week period.

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Meanwhile, warehouse storekeeper Armel Sharil, who was found sleeping rough near Kranji MRT Station earlier in the month, shared that his employer told him that he should find shelter on his own.

“If they can’t pay for my accommodation, I might consider returning to Johor Bahru as I can’t afford to pay for my own,” said the 31-year-old, noting that he cannot afford Singapore’s high cost of living.

 “I love my job and I don’t want to lose it but I have no choice. When I calculate the cost of food and accomodation for two weeks, it adds up to S$500 which can be converted to RM1,500. That’s a lot of money,” said the father of two children.

Azreenawaty Salim, a 45-year old dishwasher, revealed that she may return to sleeping rough near Kranji MRT Station in the event she finds no place to stay.

“I don’t have family members or relatives here. My friends are also struggling to find a place to stay,” she said.

The hotel accommodation provided by her employer will only be till 1 April.

“I know the Singapore government has done its best to help us, we are very grateful for that. Now we need to deal with this problem ourselves,” she said.

Eugenia Rosaline Shlaen edited this story. To contact her, e-mail


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