Singapore curtailing foreign workers
Singapore's Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam turned his attention to the prickly subject of low-skilled foreign workers continuing to flood into the island state. Unveiling the country's budget for 2013, he announced that Singapore would be imposing limits on the numbers of foreign workers entering the island state. Further to this, he added that Singaporean businesses had a duty to assist with the upgrading of the skills levels of the local workforce.
His intention was that firms who continued to employ foreign workers, because their low skills meant they did not have to be as remunerated as skilled staff, would be suitably levied. In addition, foreign workforce quotas would be reduced, and there would be far stricter qualification requirements for aspiring entrants.
The question of foreign workers and their place in the Singapore market has been a hot political issue for some time. There has been increased criticism of the country's immigration policies. This has grown steadily more vocal until it has reached the state where many local Singaporeans are blaming unfettered foreign workers for rises in both property prices and the cost of living.
In a keynote speech, Shanmugaratnam mentioned that the influx of foreign workers had been far “too high” in recent years. However, he was particularly cautious about any knee-jerk reaction. A sharp reduction in the numbers of foreign workers was certainly not a recommended course of action. "We cannot cut off the flow of foreign workers abruptly but we have to slow the growth”.
Shanmugaratnam stressed that his government's policies were all about encouraging Singapore money by inspiring businesses to reduce any over-reliance on manpower. It was not about replacing foreign workers with locally recruited counterparts. The ultimate aim of these tactics was to improve productivity, avoiding the likelihood of an indefinite increase in the numbers of foreign workers being attracted to jobs in Singapore at the expense of the local workforce.
The Singaporean budget has been tabled at a time when locals are increasing in voicing concerns over the burgeoning numbers of foreign workers being attracted to work in the island state. Recently, a government white paper was published on workforce demographics. This demonstrated that Singapore's population is projected to rise to almost 7 million over the next decade and a half – an increase of some 30%. One of the most obvious areas that would account for this rise would be in the numbers of foreign workers.