Foreign workers not a threat to Singaporean PMETS: Wong

Limiting the entry of foreign workers would not result in more jobs for Singapore, Wong said.

According to a recent speech by Minister Lawrence Wong at the parliamentary motion about the securing of Singaporean’s jobs and livelihoods, the presence of foreign workers is not a threat to the jobs of Singaporeans.

Wong talked about how the implementation of a limitation on foreign workers would not automatically result in more jobs for Singapore. 

“First, when we squeeze foreign PMETs, the jobs will not automatically go to Singaporeans. Just think about this, global businesses are here, international consultancy, and private banks. They are here as Ms. Mariam Jaafar said just now to play the global game. They are not here to serve the Singapore market. They are here to serve the region and the world.” 

He further went on to say that this global mindset is what makes the country appealing to investors—businesses such as international consultancy and private banks.

Wong also pointed out that the problem is that there aren’t enough Singaporeans to address the demand in the workforce. “Where are we going to find all the Singaporeans, everybody wants more. Indeed, if you go to any of our faculties, or maybe most of the faculties in our universities, polytechnics, ITEs, they will tell you when they talk to industries, the industries and employers are saying, look we want your graduates but produce more of them. If we move to one area, the other will, say that there is a shortage, that is just the stark reality.”

The role of upskilling and training was also addressed by Wong, as from his point of view, limitations are also present in these. “As I mentioned earlier, the government is going all out to help our mid-career [workers]. We are investing more heavily in SkillsFuture, in lifelong learning; we are working with our tripartite partners, and especially with the NTUC and labour movement. But individuals also do have to make the effort in order to make these transitions.”

In response to an earlier speaker’s suggestion that an association could be made between tight labour markets and wage growth, Wong recalled Singapore’s previous experience with the 2008 global financial crisis and how Singapore responded to that. 

“We had a 2008 global financial crisis. After that, we waited for a while to make sure that the economy stabilised. And if you recall, we tightened our foreign worker policies, levies and quotas. At the same time, the economy bounced back very sharply, much, much more strongly than we expected. In fact, I remember, after 2011 and entering politics, we were discussing this issue and having dialogues; many businesses and employers were literally scolding us for tightening foreign worker policies. They said: there is so much growth, why are you holding us back?”

The minister also said that going through this measure would mean the loss of Singapore’s competitiveness. By doing this, companies would be shut out and jobs would decline as well.

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