Singapore— Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said in Parliament on Tuesday (Feb 4) that the country’s workforce needs the ‘right mix’ of local and foreign manpower in order to “punch above our weight.”
For this to happen, he added, requires consistent fine-tuning.
“To grow our economy and job opportunities, we will always need a certain local-foreign complement, both in terms of quality and quantity,” Mr Chan said. “We must be careful not to crash the gears and make our enterprises suffer the consequences of the lack of capacity to circulate and regenerate capacity. We must also be cognisant of the ability and the pace which we can re-skill and upgrade our workers.”
He told his fellow Members of Parliament that the number of foreign workers needs to be balanced not only with the needs of businesses here but the social acceptance of migrant workers as well.
The foreign-local workforce balance has been a recurrent topic in Mr Chan’s recent speeches, as he has endeavoured to clarify the reasons why foreign workers are needed for the country to have quality jobs and investments.
He said, “We need a balanced approach to our talent strategy. Too many foreign workers, and not necessarily just the lower skilled ones, and our local workforce feels overwhelmed. Too few, our local enterprises and workers are unable to achieve scale or competitiveness for the global market.
Hence, it is a strategy that requires constant fine-tuning to get the balance right for enterprises and workers.”
The Trade and Industry Minister was answering a question from MP Liang Eng Hwa of Holland-Bukit Timah GRC. Mr Liang asked a question concerning the plan of the Government toward building up the economy as well as creating more quality jobs for the local workforce with no over-reliance on migrant workers.
Mr Chan said that it is good investments that create good jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans. And having a sizeable and good-quality talent pool is a factor that brings in these investments.
Mr Chan added that where our foreign workforce comes from needs to be diversified in order to allow for business continuity as well as prevent the issues that stem from having a large group from one nationality.
Straitstimes.com reports him as saying, “Singapore is a diverse, cosmopolitan and inclusive society. But we also must not ignore the public discomfort that can surface with too high a concentration of any particular foreign worker group.”
An investment that requires some of its jobs to be filled, at least at first, by foreign talent, is still beneficial to Singapore, as it paves the way for training and upskilling for the locals who all eventually take those positions.
But if investments are not made into the country due to a lack of needed skilled workers, this would result in lower competitiveness as well as lost employment opportunities for the enact generations.
Therefore, he added, “to allow our people and enterprises to punch above our weight, we need a certain local-foreign complement, both in terms of quantity and quality.”
He assured Parliament that the Government has strategies for keeping the foreign workforce at “manageable level”, such as investing in education and the SkillsFuture projects for training and re-skilling, ensuring that the local workforce is given just treatment in their workplaces, and managing how many foreigners they are, as well as what they are qualified for.
Mr Chan’s speech can be viewed here