Govt cut foreign worker quota to protect local jobs: Chee Hong Tat
The jobs of Singaporeans will be lost and the country will have sociopolitical problems if Singapore does not control the total number of foreigners working here, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat said.
Mr Chee told Parliament yesterday that such problems have occurred in other countries, which is why the Government reduced the foreign worker quotas for the services sector despite the impact on some companies.
His response came after several MPs questioned the decision to lower the dependency ratio ceiling in 2020 and 2021 for the services sector, arguing that the move would raise business and labour costs in the industry.
Nominated MP Douglas Foo said the quota cuts are the main concern of the business sector given their labour constraints.
"No matter how technology may alleviate operational demands, a lack of readily available human resource, which will invariably in turn drive up already increasing labour costs, will work in tandem to drive businesses out of Singapore or out of business altogether," he added.
Mr Chee said at the end of yesterday's debate: "We knew it would be painful for the affected companies, and we agonised over this difficult decision during our many rounds of inter-ministry discussions."
Ultimately, the Government decided it was better to make a move now to control the number of foreign workers before the problem gets out of hand.
He said the Government was aware of labour constraints in the services sector and how some companies have begun investing in productivity improvements, working with government agencies and industry associations.
"The hard work is starting to bear fruit and we need to keep it up," added Mr Chee, noting how productivity has been steadily rising across sectors.
It rose 4.4 per cent for the accommodation segment in each year from 2013 to 2018, 3.2 per cent for retail trade and 1.4 per cent for food services.
Total manpower in the accommodation sector fell by 1 per cent in that period while total room stock went up 4 per cent.
The Government will increase its support to help businesses transform, and has worked with industry associations for this purpose. The Productivity Solutions Grant will be enhanced to subsidise up to 70 per cent of out-of-pocket training expenses of eligible companies, up to $10,000.
They can also access up to 70 per cent of government funding for transformation projects through an extended Enterprise Development Grant.