New way of hiring locals, raising productivity key to coping with tighter foreign worker quota: Chee Hong Tat

Senior Minister of State Chee Hong Tat at the second Berita Harian Future Economy Seminar and Dialogue on Nov 11, 2019. ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

SINGAPORE - Businesses need to take a different approach to find more local workers and boost their productivity with the tightening of foreign worker quota from next year, said Senior Minister of State Chee Hong Tat on Monday (Nov 11).

He made the point in response to business owners' concerns about the Government reducing the Dependency Ratio Ceiling (DRC), or the proportion of foreign workers a firm can employ, over the next two years.

The DRC will be lowered from 40 per cent to 38 per cent from Jan 1 next year, and to 35 per cent on Jan 1, 2021.

"To young people, we need to see how we can redesign our jobs, how we can redefine the roles that they play, and how they can grow in their roles," Mr Chee told around 60 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) at the second Berita Harian Future Economy Seminar and Dialogue.

The event at Singapore Polytechnic was organised by Malay-language newspaper Berita Harian with support from the Future Economy Council.

Mr Chee noted that while pay is important, young people are also concerned about their growth opportunities.

Businesses should also look at how they can attract other types of workers - older people who are willing to continue in the workforce, those who have left the workforce and are looking to return, vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities, and ex-offenders.

And in doing so, it is important for employers to consider the different needs of these categories of workers, Mr Chee said, adding that they should not just think about the impact on their businesses, but also the greater impact on society.

"If we can get your support to be able to hire these different groups of people... the Government will do our part also to help you."

During the dialogue, he also highlighted the opportunities that the Government has provided for companies looking to expand overseas, such as through pop-up stalls abroad.

This helps firms get greater brand awareness among foreign consumers and is a less costly way of testing the waters overseas, as compared to setting up a permanent business there, Mr Chee said.

The Government is also committed to supporting ideas, big or small, as long as there is willingness to innovate and improve processes, and these are areas where rules and regulations can play a role in businesses' development, he said. He called on businesses to share their concerns and feedback with the Government through trade associations and chambers so that it can see how things can be improved.

"This process of improving productivity, innovation, training your staff, finding new markets, we know it's not easy... but (the Government) will not let you walk this journey alone," Mr Chee said.

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