Experts caution on foreign manpower estimates

HRM 15 Nov 2012

More parties have spoken up and expressed concern over the Singapore government’s plans to bring in more foreign workers by 2030.

Industry experts said that meeting the demand for foreign labour may be a challenge for certain sectors, while some question the quality of foreign manpower that will be coming into Singapore.

In an occasional paper by The National Population and Talent Division, Singapore may need 150,000 more foreign workers in healthcare, construction and as domestic helpers by 2030.

According to its estimates, there will be a demand for 91,000 health-care workers in 2030, of which 28,000 are projected to be foreigners. Demand for foreign construction workers could range from last year’s 250,000 to 300,000 by 2030, said the NPTD. For foreign domestic workers, numbers are expected to go up to 300,000 in 2030, from 198,000 last year.

Dr Tan Khay Boon, an economist from SIM Global Education, told Channel News Asia that meeting the demand for foreign labour in some sectors may be a challenge.

Tan was quoted as saying: "Among all the three areas, the construction sector is more likely easier to meet the demand. This is because a large number of foreign workers have been allocated to this sector to meet the infrastructure development requirements.

"But for the health care sector and the foreign domestic workers sector, this is more difficult to meet the demand. Mainly because these type of jobs locals find it less attractive and on top of that the supply of the domestic workers is limited probably due to the high economic growth rate in Indonesia and Philippines."

Bridget Tan, president and founder of the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME), is also concerned of the quality of foreign manpower coming in.

"We know there are other locations like Hong Kong that seems to attract the better quality migrant workers that are going out of the country because conditions of work in Hong Kong is much better than conditions of work in Singapore… Will we be attracting the right kind that will be coming in? We have to address those - the right skills and right quality of manpower that will also be productive in Singapore," she was quoted as saying.

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