Straits Times, 3 June 2015
Straits Times, 3 June 2015

Minister for Manpower (MOM), Lim Swee Say, has dismissed calls by businesses for the government to relax its foreign labour policies in order to allow more foreign workers into Singapore.

Mr Lim was reported to have said that there is “no turning back” on the government’s tightening of such policies.

“We have reached a point of no return,” Mr Lim , who is the former chief of the NTUC, said. “If they (the companies) keep hoping that the Ministry of Manpower will revisit our policy on foreign workers to treat them special, give them higher quotas and so on, that is not possible.”

Further relaxation would mean Singaporeans will be outnumbered by foreign workers, he said.

The ratio of locals to foreign workers has been going down over the years – from 4:1 to the current 2:1.

“We cannot afford to continue to adopt a more liberal policy towards taking in foreign manpower,” the minister said. “If we continue to do so, the ratio of local workers versus foreign manpower will continue to decline. As mentioned, from 4:1, 3:1 to 2:1 and in the near future, if we continue this path, it’ll be 1:1. And beyond that, one day Singaporeans will wake up to find ourselves a minority in the Singapore workforce and obviously, that’s not sustainable, that’s not desirable. So asking the Ministry of Manpower to give them an increased foreign worker quota, that is not viable.”

Mr Lim seems to have changed his views on the influx of foreign manpower.

In 2010, he was reported to have welcome the influx and that this was “good” for Singapore.

A Straits Times report in July 2010 reported Mr Lim as having said the “influx of more than 100,000 foreign workers [that year] shows the strength of job creation in Singapore and is not cause for concern.”

“It’s a good sign, because it shows that at a time when many countries are having a shortage of jobs, we are having a shortage of workers,” the then NTUC chief was quoted as saying.


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