2012/02/18

Singapore to further curb foreign worker inflow

SINGAPORE, February 17, 2012 (AFP) - Singapore will further restrict the inflow of foreign workers as the nation's infrastructure comes under strain and its national identity risks being eroded, the government said Friday.

The high number of foreign workers was one of the hottest issues in last year's general elections in which the ruling People's Action Party suffered its worst showing of 52 years in power. The government then instituted curbs on the influx in August.

Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said the government would introduce a "calibrated reduction" in the ratio of foreign workers hired by companies in the manufacturing and services sectors to curb dependence on them.

"Our increasing dependence on foreign workers is not sustainable," Tharman, who is also the deputy prime minister, told parliament as he announced the government's 2012 budget.

"It will test the limits of our space and infrastructure, despite our efforts to build more housing and expand our public transport system," he added.
"A continued rapid infusion of foreign workers will also inevitably affect the Singaporean character of our society."

Tharman said economic factors were also considered when restricting the influx of foreign workers, following curbs introduced in August last year.

"There is also an important economic reason: the easy availability of foreign labour will reduce the incentives for our companies to upgrade, design better jobs and raise productivity," he said.

Singapore's population totalled 5.18 million in 2011, more than a quarter of whom are foreigners.