Singapore looks to Sri Lanka for construction workers amid tight labour market

Mr Mangala Weerawanni (above) undergoes training at a Building and Construction Authority approved training centre in Colombo. The first 20 Sri Lankan construction workers from the centre will arrive in Singapore next Friday, bringing some relief to
Mr Mangala Weerawanni (above) undergoes training at a Building and Construction Authority approved training centre in Colombo. The first 20 Sri Lankan construction workers from the centre will arrive in Singapore next Friday, bringing some relief to the tight labour market. -- ST FILE PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

THE first 20 Sri Lankan construction workers who were trained at a Building and Construction Authority (BCA) approved training centre in Colombo will arrive in Singapore next Friday, bringing some relief to the tight labour market.

Concerted efforts to ramp up recruitment in this little-tapped source country are beginning to show results. By the end of year, 200 workers from Sri Lanka will arrive here each month.

About 10 construction firms have already expressed interest in them, said Mr Melvin Ong, the director of Fonda Global Engineering, which runs the training centre in Colombo. All 20 men arriving next week have jobs with local construction firm Yang Seng Engineering.

Sri Lanka is one of the new sources of labour the BCA is looking at to ease the shortfall in the construction sector from Chinese and Indian nationals, who make up the bulk of the nearly 300,000 construction workers here, along with workers from Bangladesh. Chinese and Indian workers are increasingly preferring to stay at home where the economies are booming.

BCA is also looking to the Philippines, besides Sri Lanka, for construction workers. Both these countries offer experienced workers who have returned from the Middle East at the end of the property boom there and are now looking elsewhere for jobs.

About 200 Filipino construction workers are slated to arrive by June 2014.