Workers' Party MP Chen Show Mao said in Parliament on Tuesday that the Government should focus on getting more citizens and residents into the workforce rather than import foreign labour - prompting a string of questions from PAP MPs and two ministers.
Speaking on the White Paper on Population, Mr Chen said that the WP believes that the resident workforce can grow at 1 per cent per annum if more elderly, homemakers and foreign spouses of citizens are encouraged to enter the labour market.
This, coupled with productivity gains, can result in modest economic growth without diluting the national identity, he said.
Mr Chen was challenged by PAP MPs Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC) and Janil Puthucheary (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC), who asked if the WP is proposing not having any foreign labour in Singapore at all, and if the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council employs foreign workers.
Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin (Marine Parade GRC) said that the Government already has in place a variety of schemes to encourage the elderly to work, which it intends to strengthen.
Mr Tan cited two: the Advantage scheme which provides funds to firms to make jobs and workplaces more elderly friendly, and the Special Employment Credit, a wage subsidy to encourage the hiring of older or disabled workers.
Mr Chen later indicated the WP believed there was room to build in these directions.
Mr Tan, on his part, said he was sure the WP had specific programmes in mind "because you've been talking about the elderly for a long time". The minister added that he would be interested to see if opposition party's ideas could be implemented to bring about they change they sought.