S’pore needs foreign workforce: govt

Fann Sim
Foreign manpower can help support the Singapore workforce. (Yahoo! file photo)

Singapore will have to retain a substantial foreign workforce for lower-skilled jobs as more Singaporean workers will hold PMET jobs in the future, government said.

According to the population white paper released by National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) on Tuesday, by 2030, two in three Singaporeans will hold PMET jobs compared to one in two today.

The remaining one-third of Singaporean workers will be more skilled than non-PMETs today. 

Government pointed out that foreign manpower would be needed to complement the local workforce in four key areas, namely:

  • Taking up lower-skilled jobs, as more Singaporeans upgrade into higher-skilled jobs
  • Helping to kick-start new high value-added emerging sectors to provide Singaporeans with a diverse range of good jobs
  • Providing businesses the flexibility to capitalise on economic upswings, while buffering Singaporean workers from job losses in downturns
  • Supporting social and development needs such as construction and social services, as well as conservancy and maintenance work, so that Singaporeans can continue to enjoy a good quality of life at moderate cost

By having foreign manpower supporting the workforce, the city-state will be able to develop a stronger core of higher skilled Singaporeans, government said.

It acknowledged that an influx of foreign workers can cause the population to expand beyond what is sustainable and can lead to lower wagers, reducing the incentive for firms to upgrade workers and raise productivity.

To guard against that, government said it would continue reviewing foreign manpower policies to reduce reliance on foreign labour in the long run.

Tan Khay Boon, senior lecturer at SIM Global Education, said the projected growth of Singapore's domestic economy of 2-3 per cent between 2010 and 2010 and one percentage point lower in the following decade would be achieved mainly by raising productivity and to a lesser extent by workforce growth.

"This is a realistic target but it is not easy to achieve.  More spending on research and development may be needed to boost labour productivity. Likewise, more spending on education and training to cultivate job competency is needed to boost labour productivity," he said.