1.32m foreign workers in Singapore; the bulk in construction and marine sectors

Construction and marine are among the top 10 sectors that employ foreign workers here. Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said that although the total number of such workers has grown, the pace of growth has slowed significantly. -- ST FILE PHOTO
Construction and marine are among the top 10 sectors that employ foreign workers here. Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said that although the total number of such workers has grown, the pace of growth has slowed significantly. -- ST FILE PHOTO

There are 1.32 million foreign workers in Singapore and the bulk of them work in the construction and marine sectors.

Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said this in a written reply yesterday to a parliamentary question filed by Nominated Member of Parliament Mary Liew.

She wanted to know the total number of foreign workers and which countries they came from.

The minister said that data on the breakdown of nationalities of foreign workers is not publicly available but gave the top 10 sectors that employed foreign workers.

Apart from construction and marine, the other eight sectors were:

  • Wholesale trade;
  • Food and beverage services;
  • Professional services;
  • Transportation and storage;
  • Fabricated metal products, machinery and equipment;
  • Petroleum, chemical and pharmaceutical products;
  • Administrative and support services;
  • Electronic, computer and optical products. 

He added that excluding foreign domestic workers, there were about 1,107,100 foreigners working in Singapore as of December last year.

But while the total number of foreign workers has grown, the pace of growth has slowed significantly.

Between 2010 and 2011, excluding foreign domestic workers, the pool of foreign workers grew by 8.75 per cent from 911,800 to 991,600.

This same pool expanded at nearly half the pace, or about 4.57 per cent, from 1,058,700 workers in 2012 to 1,107,100 workers last year.

The Government has been on a major drive to slow the inflow of foreign workers as part of a broader move to raise productivity in the economy.

Among other things, it has sought to do this through a series of foreign worker levy hikes and stricter quotas.

These measures were aimed at weaning companies off cheap foreign labour and urging them to boost productivity.

The large numbers of foreign workers have also raised social tensions and have led to complaints over overcrowding in public areas such as on trains and buses.

But while the Government has moved to reduce the flow of foreign workers, it has also maintained that Singapore needs to remain open to talent.

ameltan@sph.com.sg