Singapore's labour force participation rate for men has reached the levels of mature OECD economies, and is likely to fall in the coming years in an ageing population.
And based on these economies' experience, the rate for women has at most another 6 per cent to grow, said Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing.
In trying to get more Singaporeans to work, "we have to be realistic of what we can achieve," he cautioned, in a speech on the Government's White Paper on population.
Mr Chan did not refer directly to the Workers' Party proposal, but the WP had called for freezing the foreign workforce and instead boosting the resident workforce through increasing the labour force participation rate by 1 per cent every year for the next eight years.
He argued that foreigners are needed for his ministry's efforts to care for the old and the weak, such as building more senior activity centres, studio apartments and institutional homes. Calls for slower growth, he warned, should bear in mind that below a certain rate, the low-income group will find their wages not catching up with inflation.
He said: "So please be mindful about what we say about foreign manpower and slower growth. These choices affect our poor much, much, more than it affects the rest of us."