Journal: International Migrant Workers’ Use of Mobile Phones to Seek Social Support in Singapore


International Migrant Workers’ Use of Mobile Phones to Seek Social Support in Singapore

by Arul Chib, Holley A. Wilkin, and Sri Ranjini Mei Hua


International migrants often need social support to deal with an unfamiliar environment and reduce stress caused by prevailing attitudes in their host country, as well as that induced by distance and separation from their family. This study investigates whether mobile phones facilitate or inhibit migrants’ ability to seek the social support needed to reduce the stress they experience in their host country. Further, gender differences are examined and discussed. A quantitative survey of men (n 56), primarily Bangladeshis working in blue-collar occupations, and women (n 60), primarily Filipina domestics, was conducted in Singapore. For women, mobile use alleviated stress by increasing social support; emotional support had the greatest impact on their psychological well-being. Male migrant workers were more likely to experience stress the more they used their mobile phones and when receiving increased emotional support. This finding is in contrast to traditionally held assumptions about the beneficial impacts of mobile phones. We caution against treating immigrants as a homogeneous group, and recommend inclusion of variables such as gender to understand the role of technology-mediated social support in alleviating migrant stress. We further propose that policies and programs facilitating transnational communication for low-income migrants need to be examined carefully in terms of their unintended impacts.

Learning points:

  1. Migration stress that Migrant Workers face is related to:
  • Poor mental health that manifests in anxiety, depression, apathy, feelings of isolation.
  • Homesick and loneliness.
  • Discrimination in workplace and society.
  • Financial constraints on social and self-improvement activities.
  • Interpersonal relationship issues.
  • Language barrier.
  • Financial difficulties.

*I need to pin down one issue that I will work on.

2. Despite many organizations that are available to help migrant workers, such as Transient Workers Count Too and HOME, the migrant workers can’t access the service due to restrictions enforce by their employers or a general lack of awareness.

3. Bangladeshi construction workers are more difficult to integrate to the society due to their coming from lower socioeconomic brackets and not a good command of English. They are commonly known as “unskilled” manual laborers.

* They might be my main subject of research.