Singapore limits entry of foreign workers

First Posted 09:35:00 02/07/2010

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MANILA, Philippines?A prime destinations of Filipino workers, Singapore is implementing a comprehensive reduction of its reliance on, and accommodation of, foreign labor force.

This is part of the recommendations of the Economic Strategies Committee (ESC) created by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on May 2009 amidst the growing restiveness among Singaporeans in the face of dwindling job opportunities, depressing wages, and the decline in the standard of living in the city-state.

The ESC was created within Singapore?s Parliament, with active representation from both the private and public sectors, including the manufacturing and services sectors; foreign and local enterprises (large, medium and small); as well as the academe. The Committee draws diverse views and suggestions from companies; business chambers and associations; universities and think-tanks; and members of the public.

The committee made the recommendation based on the following observations:

* Singapore ?s liberal policy on the influx of foreigners, who now make up 36 percent of the city-state?s population and total workforce, has depressed the wages of ordinary Singaporeans, increased the cost of living, decreased labor productivity, and led to an overall decline in the standards of living.

* While foreign workers are only employed in sectors shunned by Singaporeans in the past, they are now competing with Singaporeans directly for jobs which they will be keen to take up.

* Many of these foreigners come to work in Singapore on easily-availed ?S-passes? for semi-skilled workers with corresponding low pay, thus contributing to the depressed wages for ordinary jobs.

Based on the ESC report, Singapore could not?and should not?anymore increase the number of foreign workers as liberally as it has done over the last decade. The ESC report strengthens Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong promise to ?give Singaporeans good jobs and improve their productivity.?

Effects on OFWs

There are thousands of Filipinos in Singapore consisting of domestic helpers, professionals such as information technology (IT) workers, nurses, bank clerks, sales assistants in department stores, and business owners.

Based on recommendations forwarded by sectors participating in the ESC, some measures to be adopted could include: imposing heavier levies (taxes and other fees) as well as stricter requirements on foreign workers, and putting a ceiling or quota on the number of foreign workers to be hired on certain job sectors.

It is now up to Philippine officials to undertake measures that would minimize the negative effects of this new challenge on our migrant workers.

Eduardo “Jun” Burgos Jr. was a journalist from 1991 to 1999. He also served as information attaché of the Philippine embassy in Australia under Ambassador Delia Domingo-Albert from 1999 to 2001. He may be contacted through his e-mail address: junburgos1021@gmail.com.

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