Singapore's domestic workforce, comprising more than 220,000 mostly migrant women, is known by some as the "silent army." They live and work in as many as one in six Singaporean homes. They care for children and the elderly, cook, clean, shop, and pay bills. They essentially run the household.

HOME Shelter for Foreign Domestic Workers in Singapore. | April 22, 2015 | (Tom White)

These women come from neighboring Southeast Asian countries in search of a better life only to find themselves frequently underpaid and overworked. As the country increasingly relies on this workforce, it struggles to provide them adequate rights or recourse.

British photographer Tom White, who has lived and worked in Singapore for the past five years, has spent a lot of time with foreign domestic workers who seek help and support from a local NGO called the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME). "While many develop good working relationships with their employers, abuse of domestic workers is not uncommon," White said in an interview, "and ranges from the extremes of physical, verbal, and sexual assault to punitive action for perceived wrongs, violation of contracted rights, and withheld pay."

HOME Shelter for Foreign Domestic Workers in Singapore. | March 20, 2015 | (Tom White)

HOME Shelter for Foreign Domestic Workers in Singapore. | March 20, 2015 | (Tom White)

HOME offers these women a place to stay while the country's Ministry of Manpower investigates their cases, which can often be drawn out for months and even years. In 2014 alone, HOME reportedly helped more 750 domestic workers report cases of various abuses to the authorities.

Day by day, the shelter is home to about 50 to 60 women seeking refuge. "The shelter itself is run like a self-governing commune — everyone cooks, everyone cleans, everyone respects each other's faith," White said.

"Many women find the companionship, the support, and the joys that have been denied them in their roles as domestic caregivers. They support each other, they form friendships and bonds, they lift each other's spirits."

HOME Shelter for Foreign Domestic Workers in Singapore. | March 20, 2015 | (Tom White)

While some women preferred not to discuss their cases with White, there was always someone willing to share an often harrowing story.

In one case, an Indonesian woman named Nina, following a dispute with her employer, was housed with her agent, who was reportedly unhappy with Nina for ending her contract. Nina claims she was locked in the house for three days when, panicked, she opened a window to call for help or escape, but instead fell from the third floor, breaking her left elbow, right arm and wrist, and right leg.

After being discharged from the hospital, Nina came to HOME. "She was in obvious distress, but you could see how important the care given by the other residents was to her, both physically and mentally," White said.

While volunteer medical staff visit Nina Duwi Koriah, she is cared for by other HOME residents, including fellow Indonesian Sri Wulan. | HOME Shelter for Foreign Domestic Workers in Singapore. | April 26, 2016 | (Tom White)

HOME Shelter for Foreign Domestic Workers in Singapore. | April 17, 2015 | (Tom White)

"The stories of domestic workers are also stories about migration, economics, family, finance, struggle, friendship, and politics," White said.

"Again and again I hear from domestic workers that they just want to do their job, earn some money, and be treated with dignity and respect. This, I think, is something we can all relate to."

HOME Shelter for Foreign Domestic Workers in Singapore. | March 20, 2015 | (Tom White)

HOME Shelter for Foreign Domestic Workers in Singapore. | March 20, 2015 | (Tom White)

**To see more on this series or any of Tom White's photography, you can check out his website or follow him on Twitter and Tumblr.**

Editor's note: This article as been slightly changed since it was originally published.