Responding to a question from MP Gan Thiam Poh (Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC) in Parliament on Tuesday, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said that foreign labor would be capped at the current one-third of the population in Singapore today.

Mr Lim told the House that overall annual foreign workforce growth has moderated from 144,500 in 2007 to 34,000 in 2014. The slowdown, he says, was across all sectors.

Excluding domestic workers, the employment of foreign workers in the services sector grew by 21,500 in 2014, down from 54,500 foreign workers hired in 2007.

Similarly, foreign employment growth slowed from 36,000 in 2007 to 9,700 in 2014 for the construction sector. In manufacturing, foreign employment numbers fell from 42,000 in 2007 to 5,400 in 2014.

In reply to another question from MP Yeo Guat Kwang (Ang Mo Kio GRC) on foreign worker levies, Mr Lim said such levies remain relevant and “reducing or doing away with levies would not benefit Singaporean rank and file workers”.

This is because employers may then prefer to hire cheaper foreign workers to “maximise their quota” adding that “the salary of local workers may also be suppressed due to lower cost of hiring foreign workers”.

Mr Lim said it could also deter investment in “manpower-lean” technology and solutions.

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