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With workers from Bangladesh and India dwindling, companies look to China for manpower

30% to 40% shortage of workers, says construction company executive

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Singapore – With a travel ban imposed on visitors with recent travel history from India and Bangladesh, companies that have relied on migrant workers from these countries are now considering other options for human resources.

Singapore has banned entry and transit for visitors, including long-term pass holders, with recent travel history to Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka beginning May 2.

The tighter border controls were imposed amid the rising number of confirmed Covid-19 cases within the community and the worsening Covid-19 outbreak in India.

On May 4, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that stricter measures would be implemented amid the rising Covid-19 cases.

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Such measures are a step back to of exiting the circuit breaker period, said the Covid-19 co-chair Lawrence Wong.

However, “this is not a circuit breaker. We certainly not to have to invoke another circuit breaker”, he said.

Mr Wong also acknowledged that certain industries like construction and small and medium enterprises in Singapore would be affected by the travel ban.

“More recently, when we restricted the flow of workers from India and the entire South Indian continent…it means considerable delays will be added to all of our projects,” said Mr Wong.

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Despite the Building and Construction Authority announcing on Apr 26 that it will provide support measures such as granting more flexibility for firms to source workers from China, companies have voiced that this won’t be enough.

A in the construction industry told Channel NewsAsia that with such alternatives, the cost of hiring workers from China would “shoot up” as demand increases.

“As it is, the daily rate for a Chinese worker is about S$200 to S$300 per day. With this move, don’t be surprised that the cost will go up 30 per cent to 40 per cent more for each worker,” he said.

“However, I also think many companies will hold back on hiring more Chinese workers, as they don’t have the budget to. And this will lead to more project delays.”

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Meanwhile, the daily rate for workers from India or Bangladesh is about S$120 to S$150, an increase from S$70 to S$80 in the past.

Another construction company executive told CNA that there is currently a shortage of workers ranging from 30 to 40 per cent.

While sourcing from China will meet some gaps, fewer are willing to work in Singapore given economic opportunities in their home country.

“There was a net decrease of workers from the system practically the whole of last year … now with the stoppage from India, that makes the whole scenario even more challenging,” he said.

When asked if they were continuing their search in other countries, the executive confirmed they were “still looking”.

According to Assistant Professor Laavanya Kathiravelu from Nanyang Technological University’s School of Social Sciences, other industries, including food and beverage, shipyard and manufacturing, might be affected by the shortage of migrant workers.

“These are all areas of our economy that rely heavily on South migrant labour,” she said./TISG

Read related: Just close the borders: netizens on the stricter measures amid rising Covid-19 cases

Just close the borders: netizens on the stricter measures amid rising Covid-19 cases

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