Forum: Time to redesign environment to reduce reliance on foreign labour

Covid-19 has reminded Singaporeans that we have many foreign workers doing jobs that are essential to keep our city state clean and safe.

However, with the Covid-19 crisis at foreign dormitories brought under control, we seem to have forgotten how we got ourselves into this over-dependence on these foreign workers, and seem to be back to our "normal dependence" again.

It's imperative that we start redesigning our environment for the day when these foreign workers are not here to work.

We can improve the way we green our roads and open spaces. The greenery cannot be pruned and maintained without armies of foreign workers doing the work. An example is the 500km of bougainvillea lining the highways and roads to conceal the crash barriers.

In Housing Board estates, the lighting and finishes in the public areas need to be designed for easy maintenance to reduce the skill and number of workers needed to maintain them.

The handling of trash needs a rethink, too. The current public trash bins need workers to lift the large plastic cover to access the metal bin inside to empty the trash. Let's design better bins that require less labour to maintain.

And finding workers to run behind a rubbish truck to dump in trash from landed properties will not be realistic in the near future. A central rubbish centre for such landed homes would work better.

We need to change our approach and mindset to reduce our dependence on cheap foreign labour by redesigning our environment and the way we live.

This is urgent before we settle back into our "normal lives" again and forget that we have thousands of foreign workers who are needed to maintain the infrastructure we built that is not maintenance-friendly.

They may not continue to come or we may no longer be able to afford them when our tax base shrinks as our society ages.

Wee Soon Thong