The Straits Times
Published on Dec 12, 2012

Boosting productivity is the way forward


I APPLAUD Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam's push to improve productivity at the workplace ("Tackle labour crunch with productivity push: Tharman"; last Saturday). Our economy has been very dependent on cheap foreign labour all this while, and this reliance has to be eventually phased out.

Companies that cannot adapt to the labour crunch must relocate or close down their operations.

The recent illegal strike by Chinese SMRT bus drivers has shown that it is difficult to manage foreign labour relations, and foreign workers may not be able to appreciate our work culture well enough to work harmoniously with us.

The ease of availability of cheap foreign labour has also deterred many employers from pursuing productivity, and this has resulted in low work productivity for the past few years.

Employers will simply hire more workers rather than think of ways to improve the productivity of their existing labour force.

More significantly, the reliance on cheap foreign labour has caused our wages to stagnate, resulting in much hardship for the local workforce.

I remember that part-time wages for food and beverage outlets stood at $7 an hour 10 years ago, a sum that has not changed much since then because of the ample supply of cheap foreign labour in our country.

The local economy certainly needs a serious mindset shift away from a labour-intensive stance to one that emphasises productivity and mechanisation.

Moreover, if we want to grow our service industry, we need to also think of allocating viable employment opportunities from this sector to the local workforce and not to predominantly depend on foreign labour.

If wages can be improved, I am sure that locals will start to come into this foreigner-dominated sector.

Our economy will not grow if we continue to depend on cheap foreign labour, as not only are they unproductive but they also cause our wages to stagnate over time.

Gilbert Goh


Transitioning - Unemployment support services