Recently, the Minister for Manpower, Lim Swee Say discussed the goal of having a two-thirds Singaporean core (i.e. 2 local workers for every foreign worker).
“We are managing the growth of the foreign manpower at the pace in tandem with the growth of the local manpower,” said Mr Lim. “It’s important that we ensure that two thirds of our workforce will form a strong Singaporean core in our economy … On the whole, we want to do our best to strike this balance.
It’s not so much because the policy of the past was a mistake but rather, we are now having a new stage of growth and therefore we have to pursue a new direction,” he said.
He also stated – “Every country has to find the right balance … But on the whole, I would say that we have managed the process a lot more effectively compared to some other cities and countries. Through the manpower quota system, we have ensured foreign manpower spread across all sectors and companies.”
In his interview with Channel 5, Mr.Lim stated that while the goal may seem like a difficult one to make a reality, many industries are already near having the desired employee make up.
One example Mr.Lim focused on was the manufacturing and service industries – “The ratio of local versus foreigners is not one-third to two-thirds, it’s actually three-quarters local manpower [and] one-quarter foreign manpower. Of these three-quarters, the majority of them are Singaporeans. So if you look at these sectors, today we are almost there.”
Mr.Lim is optimistic about the ability to maintain the target ratio in such industries, and feels that a combination of reduced foreign worker quotas for other industries will lead to better growth toward the two-thirds Singaporean core goal.
However, he is hesitant about slowing the growth of foreign manpower too quickly. He stated that the workforce must be balanced, or else the country could experience an overall fall in economic growth, defeating the purpose of the original goal.
“To maintain the ratio of two to one, we have to slow down the intake of foreign manpower. Therefore, the total workforce growth will slow down from three per cent to one per cent.” Continuing the Minister stated, “If we are not able to increase our productivity beyond one per cent, [one percent workforce growth plus one percent productivity growth] one will give us only two per cent growth every year.” (as compared to the current growth rate of four percent).
Here is a video of the entire interview, which covers key manpower issues and also addresses questions received from the public.