In a recent announcement, Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam affirmed that the Singapore Government is committed to its long-term foreign worker strategy, stating that no regression in policy is imminent. As expressed in the Budget statement, the government intends to cap foreign manpower growth to a third of its total workforce within the decade.
Addressing the manpower concerns of SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) during SPRING Singapore’s Business Excellence Awards ceremony last week, DPM Tharman emphasized that there will be no U-Turn in major policies. The government’s long-term approach is intended to avoid major disruption, even as it tightens its policies. By imposing deliberate and calibrated measures, the government aims to gradually shift businesses to a more productivity-led growth.
AsiaBiz Services, a Singapore work visa consultancy, commends the announcement. “This provides some much-needed clarity to the business community. The government’s stance on this issue sets some solid expectations on our part. With the certainty that the calibration of our foreign worker framework is here for the long haul, firms of all sizes should begin to plan accordingly and adapt to this new reality,” opined Mr. James Neuben, AsiaBiz Services Head of Taxation.
Further analysis by AsiaBiz revealed that the city-state’s foreign manpower policy has been a persistent issue for the private sector, as SMEs continue to express concern over their escalating manpower needs. The government’s major challenge then is to provide a balanced solution to the needs of the business sector, as well as the prevailing discontent among locals over the growth of foreign population and its effect on nationhood and quality of life.
Commenting on the scenario, Mr. Neuben added, “At this point, more companies should consider measures such as the Singapore Productivity and Innovation (PIC) scheme. Even as the government limits the inflow of Singapore work pass holders, the PIC scheme allows SMEs to access the necessary skills by investing in manpower development as well as productivity-boosting activities and machinery. In addition, firms are encouraged to institute a range of productivity strategies and incentives to progressively improve the quality of their workforce.”
Meanwhile, in an official statement, the Ministry of Manpower articulated that although Singapore’s long-term goal is a strategic shift to a productivity-focused economy, foreign manpower will still continue to be an essential component of the local workforce.