Be judicious in foreign worker quota cuts

There are some sectors here in which employers often have trouble finding Singaporeans for, like the service, healthcare and some aspects of the construction sectors, says the writer.
There are some sectors here in which employers often have trouble finding Singaporeans for, like the service, healthcare and some aspects of the construction sectors, says the writer.PHOTO: ST FILE

The recently announced move to cut the foreign workers quota is aimed at reducing the reliance on foreign manpower (Foreign worker quotas cut to protect S'poreans' jobs, says Chee Hong Tat, Feb 27).

However, despite such intentions, we should see if it is truly practical for all sectors.

While we want to see more efficient use of labour resources, some sectors do need people.

Yes, we should look to automation and technology to help ease the manpower crunch, and push firms towards leaner operations. Yet, some jobs still require humans.

For example, the service, healthcare and even some aspects of the construction sector require a human touch. And these are the very sectors in which employers often have trouble finding Singaporeans for, even if they are offered good money.

So we have to look hard at whether Singaporeans are truly being deprived of jobs.

Even if we offered salaries that match those of an office worker, our citizens still baulk at jobs in some of these sectors and many more.

Very few are prepared to labour under the scorching sun, even if they can get paid a fair wage.

Service fussy Singaporeans? No way! Take care of the elderly and face demanding crowds at healthcare institutions? Not too many Singaporeans consider that their dream job.

While policies which seem to prioritise the selection of Singaporeans seem beneficial, we should really reflect on whether Singaporeans will really want to take up these jobs.

Allowing an ever-increasing number of foreign workers can definitely be deleterious to our economy, but in certain cases, careful judgment needs to be made so our actions do not actually have the reverse effect and make life more difficult for ourselves with no benefit.

A more selective and curated process will help make this policy truly beneficial to all Singaporeans.

Peter Loon Seng Chee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2019, with the headline 'Be judicious in foreign worker quota cuts'. Print Edition | Subscribe