Innovate For Good

An app that helps migrant workers send funds home safely

7 Mar 2018 by Lin Yanqin

POSB jolly enables workers to transfer money conveniently, and without paying remittance fees

When Alagu Kalidoss moved here 14 years ago from India to work in construction, getting paid was only the start.

There was also the question of where to bank the money, and how to get it home to his family.

The 32-year-old recalls how, aside from the usual pains of settling into a new country, he had to take his salary – then paid in cash – to Little India and queue up at a remittance agency to send money home.

This sometimes took hours and ate into his precious rest time. He worked six days a week, sometimes over 10 hours each day with overtime. The fees charged by remittance agencies also chipped away at his wages.

“When you first arrive, you don’t know anything,” says Alagu, who is now a site supervisor at a construction firm. “You ask your friends. Sometimes they don’t know anything.”

Now, he gets his salary banked into a POSB savings account opened with the help of his employer, and has begun remitting money home via the POSB jolly mobile application, which was developed to better support migrant workers.

The app, available to the bank’s account holders, acts as a single interface for users to make use of the bank’s SMS remittance and banking services.

Alagu no longer treks down to Little India from his dormitory in Bedok North, just to spend hours trying to send money home. Nor is he charged fees for the remittance.

POSB jolly: an app that helps migrant workers send funds home safely 01:36

Melvyn Lu, business director (workplace banking) at DBS Bank, notes, “As most of the workers work long hours and only have off days on Sunday, going to a bank poses a challenge. On their off days, rather than spending time resting, they travel long distances to Little India where they queue for hours to perform remittances,”

With POSB jolly, the app becomes the face of the bank for the workers. They are able to check when their salary comes in as well as their expenses. Remitting becomes a simple, quick process rather than manual form filling and queuing to make payment.

— Melvyn Lu, business director (workplace banking), DBS Bank

More remittance options with POSB jolly app

Bank accounts and managing finances electronically are considered a given by Singaporeans, but remain out of the reach of many low-wage migrant workers, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.

Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) Senior Specialist (Youth Engagement) Ethan Gan says he would like to see bank accounts opened for all migrant workers in Singapore, and their salaries credited into the accounts. Currently, this is not a requirement.

The move to require employers to issue itemised payslips – which took effect in April 2016 – addresses some concerns about unfair payment. But requiring employers to open bank accounts for wage payment would go even further, says Gan. Such records can go a long way when disputes arise.

The POSB jolly app, which is directly linked to a user’s bank account, offers basic banking services such as checking of transactions and topping up of prepaid SIM. Users can also send money home securely without needing access to data. Mobile data is only needed to download the app.

Following feedback from migrant workers, POSB collaborated with money transfer company Moneygram to offer more remittance options.

Other than remitting to an overseas bank account, users can also use the app to send money to predefined beneficiaries, who can then collect cash from their village’s Moneygram cash collection points.

In addition, the app also provides information on the Ministry of Manpower’s policies as well as links to get assistance from the Singapore Police Force, MWC and Centre for Domestic Employees.

Photo: Shutterstock

Offering peace of mind

With the POSB jolly app, Alagu says he now knows when his salary comes in, and when his family receives the money, providing him with peace of mind.

His colleague Ponnucherry Gopalakrishnam, 32, points out that he can check the exchange rate easily on the app. “The exchange rate (for the Indian rupee) changes very fast,” he says. “So when I see the rate is good, I can send money immediately.”

Both agree it helps to have a supportive employer. “It’s helpful when they make arrangements for you,” says Alagu.

Since the app was piloted in 2016 and launched a year later, there have been more than 100,000 downloads. Remittance services are available to workers from India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Philippines. Users are subject to the bank’s exchange rates.

“The reason the workers do not use mobile banking is because they are not familiar with the setup of internet or mobile banking when they are new to Singapore,” adds DBS’ Lu. “POSB jolly is the entry point for them to learn mobile banking. Upon learning from their peers how to use mobile banking, they will switch.”


Find out more about POSB jolly.

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