Monthly Archives: June 2019

Prostitution Wave Hit ‘Squeaky Clean’ Singapore & Since Recovered

This was an originally article produced on Reuters on the October 12, 2004 by Fayen Wong and adapted for this blog.

Many China Chinese prostitutes roaming around Singapore?

On a street corner at Singapore’s infamous red-light district of Geylang, a van pulls up beside two women, both dressed in revealing blouses and tight skirts.

Moments later, a lady rushes out to open the van’s door and disappears. Her close friend sits around while waiting for another customer. Both are tourists from mainland China – and both are working in Singapore as prostitutes.

Some mention that prostitution was expanding from red-light districts into suburbs, and consists mainly of mainland Chinese women on tourist visas.

Most of these people work in Singapore under social visit passes – which is technically illegal. That violates local Singapore manpower laws which prohibits those without work permits or citizenship from working in Singapore.

In fact, on a somewhat related note, lots of foreigners also moonlight illegally in Singapore as escorts

On a slightly related note, there are also lots of European escorts working illegally in Singapore. If caught, they will get sent back immediately with a criminal record too.

In fact, if it were to really come down to it, only Singaporean and permanent residents (PRs) are allowed to work in any non-illegal forms of work in Singapore. Singapore government is known to not hand out work passes for prostitutes or even social escorts.

Even for local Singapore social escort agencies, for registered and legal ones, they are also only allowed to hire Singaporeans or PRs.

All foreigners are not allowed to work in and generate Singapore sourced income – be it as prostitutes or legal social escorts.

In the past, USA had claimed Singapore had a trafficking problem for women and children

Additionally, a US State Department report in 2014 added on that Singapore actually had a “significant” trafficking problem involving both women and children.

Singapore government denied all allegations

However, Singapore’s government refuted the report.

Singapore government also provided proof that the city state had an almost negligible amount of forced prostitution

It reported seven cases of alleged forced prostitution in 2003 and two convictions. Singapore’s government said only two of 18 reports of forced prostitution in 2002 and 2003 were substantiated, describing them as “very rare”.

Could the problem lie with China instead of with Singapore?

The allegations against Singapore could have hit a raw nerve with the local citizens. Many shocked local Singaporean residents urged their government to raise the issue with China.

“Bilateral ties with China are no doubt important but we should not compromise our social values by allowing the prostitution problem to get out of hand,” wrote Tang Li Shan, who was among those who had complained to the local SG media.

The largest percentage of these problematic sex workers is from China.

With most locals speaking English and Mandarin, it is only natural that mainland Chinese flocked to Singapore as tourists and makes up Singapore’s quickest growing source of tourists. However, during that same monitored period,┬áthe number of foreign sex workers working illegally in Singapore being arrested shot up 50 percent from police data. This data also revealed that most of the foreign women working illegally in Singapore were from China!

Changes for the better in recent years

Regardless, due to some government policy changes and police clampdowns, Singapore has largely recovered from such illegal activities.

Additionally, one of the main reasons why Singapore has since implemented a blanket ban on all forms of public solicitation of prostitution is streetwalkers. It is an unsightly scene, and not something that Singapore wants associated with it. This banning of public solicitation has indeed seen very positive results in terms of way fewer streetwalking hookers in Singapore (1).


  1. Loh, R. and Liew, I. (2017). Geylang cleans up its act. [online] The New Paper. Available at: [Accessed 30 Jun. 2019].