Ratio of 1 Foreign Worker to 2 Singaporeans

Singapore will continue to have a ratio of 1 foreign worker to 2 Singaporeans in the work place in the foreseeable future, according to Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, the director for Quality Worklife and All Nationalities. By maintaining this ratio, and with the impending raise in the qualifying salary of foreign workers from July 2011, the Singapore’s PAP-led Government aims to tighten the inflow of foreign workers into the country.

These policy measures came about as more Singaporeans are becoming uncomfortable with the visible rise in the numbers of foreigners in Singapore. Some Singaporeans felt threatened by the presence of more foreigners in our midst as they compete with the locals for space in public transport, schools, jobs and even housing. There were also complaints that the presence and reliance on foreign workers are depressing the salary in Singapore.

The new Minister of State for Manpower, Tan Chuan-Jin, indicated that the Ministry will be keeping track on some of the measures as their effects kick-in progressively. His blog post on Facebook suggested that the Government has been looking hard at the manpower policies to see how to “make things better” for Singaporean workers, businesses and for Singapore.

What has clearly pre-occupied DPM Tharman, SPS Hawazi and myself these few weeks, as we work with our team in MOM, is how do we keep our country growing in order to provide good jobs for the many young Singaporeans coming of age every year? How do we keep Singapore ahead of global competition while at the same time, manage the size of the growing foreign labour force sensibly? Tightening the foreign labour market is do-able but there can be important implications if over-done or tweaked in the wrong sectors. There are also many other issues that are ongoing whether they are on the public radar screen (such as entry tests and rest days for foreign domestic workers) or not (such as workplace safety, labour relations and training etc.).

Clearly, most of us recognise that Singapore will continue to need foreign workers (FW) and foreign talents (FT). Few actually ask for a complete turning off of the tap. The few key themes which I highlighted in an earlier note remains e.g. too many FTs and FWs, fairness and opportunities for our own Singaporeans, bringing in the right FTs, more information-sharing, challenges faced by local employers.

The success of these policy reviews will lead to higher median salary for Singaporeans and help the locals to be more gainfully employed.

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