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Singapore Budget 2014: Levies to be raised for low-skilled foreign construction workers

Published on Feb 21, 2014 4:41 PM
Construction workers in Chai Chee on Jan 14, 2014. The levy on foreign construction workers with only basic skills will go up from $600 per worker to $700 in July 2016, said Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. -- ST FILE PHOTO: MATTHIAS HO

In yet another move to encourage greater productivity in the local construction sector, the Government will again raise levies on foreign construction workers with only basic skills.

The levy will go from $600 per worker to $700 in July 2016, said Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in Parliament on Friday.

But the levy for higher-skilled foreign construction workers will remain unchanged to encourage firms to opt for them, he said.

In the longer term, the Government will look into mandating a minimum proportion of such skilled workers in every firm, Mr Tharman warned.

It will help to ease this process by allowing foreign workers with basic skills who have worked here for at least six years, and with a salary of at least $1,600, to upgrade to the higher-skilled work permit.

This would help firms retain experienced workers with job knowledge and experience. Firms have frequently complained about having to give up these workers when their work permits expire.

In addition, the maximum period of employment for higher-skilled foreign workers will be raised from 18 to 22 years. Apart from construction workers, this will apply for workers in the marine and process sectors as well.

For the construction industry specifically, Mr Tharman introduced other measures to help raise productivity.

He said the Government will insist on the use of productive technologies such as pre-fabricated bathroom units for the land sites that it sells to private developers.

The public sector, he added, will do its part by using such advanced technologies as shield tunnelling more aggressively in public housing and transport projects.

For more news and analysis on Singapore Budget 2014, click here for ST's Big Story coverage.