No further curbs on inflow of foreign manpower this year

March 10, 201411:20 am334 views
No further curbs on inflow of foreign manpower this year
No further curbs on inflow of foreign manpower this year

SINGAPORE — Businesses were relieved following Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin’s announcement yesterday that the Government will not be introducing further curbs on the inflow of foreign manpower this year.

Mr Tan’s comments came after Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam had said during his Budget speech last month that the increase in foreign worker levies for the construction sector was the only Budget measure on that front.

Over the past two years, companies have been hit by several rounds of curbs, with some of the measures due to kick in fully this year and next, such as the higher S Pass minimum qualifying salary and the reduction in dependency ratio ceilings.

Business associations that TODAY spoke to said Mr Tan’s comments would give companies more certainty in their business planning for the year. “If (businesses) have expansion plans, then they will have a better idea of how many foreigners they can hire in relation to the number of Singaporeans that they have,” Singapore National Employers’ Federation Executive Director Koh Jun Kiat said.

Association of Small and Medium Enterprises President Kurt Wee felt some pressure on price increases would be lifted. “I think when there’s not going to be any (further) tightening, then I think businesses may not have to worry too much about longer-term issues on pricing of goods and services.”

Singapore International Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Phillip Overmyer added that the comments would help calm nerves.

“Let’s say I’m going to start an operation in town. If I’m not confident that I’m going to be able to carry out that product for several years, then I get nervous about the whole thing,” he said.

During the Committee of Supply debate for his ministry yesterday, Mr Tan said: “I would like to take this opportunity to remind all businesses that a few of the foreign manpower tightening measures that we had previously announced will take full effect this year and next, when the transition period ends.

“This includes the higher S Pass minimum qualifying salary, and the reduction in Dependency Ratio Ceilings (DRCs) and S Pass Sub-DRC from 25 per cent to 20 per cent.”

He added: “We will monitor foreign manpower growth and productivity improvements in each sector carefully, before deciding whether any further measures are necessary.”

He also noted that foreign manpower tightening measures introduced over the past years “are beginning to bite”.

Last year, foreign employment, excluding foreign domestic workers, grew by 48,400, down from the increase of 67,000 in 2012. About two-thirds of the growth was driven by the construction sector.

Excluding the construction sector and foreign domestic workers, foreign employment grew by 16,800 last year, about half of the growth in 2012 and the lowest since 2009.

While Singapore is in “pretty reasonable shape”, when compared with other advanced economies, the Republic still has some way to go in reducing overall foreign manpower reliance, Mr Tan said.

Restructuring the economy for higher productivity will be painful, he noted, adding that raising productivity is central to the Government’s efforts to create better jobs for Singaporeans.

Responding to Hougang Member of Parliament Png Eng Huat, who asked about the lack of success the Ministry of National Development has had in hiring more local crane operators in the construction sector, Mr Tan pointed out that these numbers have increased from 3,600 to 4,600 over the years, while the number of foreign crane operators, meanwhile, increased from 1,600 to 1,950.

While the current transitional Dependency Ratio Ceiling for companies is four foreign crane operators to one local crane operator, the ministry aims to change this to two foreign operators to one local by 2017, he added.



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