SINGAPORE: Singapore government denied making changes in its "tight lid" policy on foreign worker numbers despite the demand of local businesses for more workforce from outside.
"The lid on foreign worker numbers will have to stay because it is neither sustainable nor desirable if the proportion of foreign workers rises," Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say was quoted as saying by The Straits Times.
The minister, however, acknowledged that firms face growing uncertainty over the business environment and the Government can do more to explain its foreign worker policies to them.
"Some wonder whether their sectors are still important and how they can attract Singaporean workers," he said, adding that, "there is a greater need for us to explain to the business community why there is no easy way out of this present tight labour market".
According to Lim, it is not viable for firms to keep asking for more foreign workers, and they should instead work with unions and the Government to boost productivity, he said. "(Otherwise), one day, Singaporeans will wake up to find ourselves as a minority in our Singapore workforce," Lim said.
The Minister, however, did promise to review some of the other manpower policies in place, such as the national jobs bank, because policies are "never static", The Straits Times cited Mr Lim, who recently took over the ministry.
He set out four broad areas in his new role. These are: to boost competitiveness, keep the workforce lean, nurture a core group of Singaporean workers, and use the foreign workforce as a complement to the local workforce.
These strategies will help businesses to grow and workers to pursue their careers, while achieving "quality growth" for Singapore, he said. Lim, who served as secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) in his last posting, has held meeting with industry associations like the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry and several foreign business chambers since he became the manpower minister a month ago.