Minister of Trade and Industry (MTI) Chan Chun Sing recently responded to media questions about the over-reliance on foreign construction workers. To replace this 300,000 foreign workforce, he argued that Singapore will need 2,500 local babies per year over the next 40 years to become construction workers. His challenge was based on the assumption that 100,000 Singaporean workers will be three times as productive as these foreign labour.
Just today, the Workers' Party Yee Jenn Jong wrote a blog post to counter Chan Chun Sing's opinion.
1. Chan Chun Sing was exaggerating as Singaporeans are not asking for a total replacement of foreign labourers. He also made it seem like construction is a shunned career.
2. Singapore has neglected some job sectors over the decades, leading to a poor job image and lower wage prospects. The government needs to intervene to assist the construction associations and guide the market such that construction work can become a viable job with decent salary for locals.
3. While Chan Chun Sing expects Singaporeans to be thrice as productive, the reality is our construction workers' productivity "pales in comparison" to locals in other developed countries.
4. Paying higher salaries to local workers may not lead to much higher overall costs. This can be seen in the hiring of locals in develop nations with small populations, whose well-trained construction workers are able to efficiently complete their jobs with less manpower.
5. Singapore cannot afford to neglect this issue of labour intensive growth policy, and the Covid19 crisis has only shown the need shift from low-wage industries that are over-dependent on migrant foreign workers.