Ask: NUS Economists

How can Singapore reduce its reliance on foreign labour?

A The Covid-19 epidemic in the foreign worker dormitories is a sharp reminder of the cost of Singapore's heavy reliance on foreign workers. The maximum ratio of foreign to local workers ranges from as high as 7:1 in the construction and process industries, to 3.5:1 in the marine industries and to 0.6:1 in services.

For this to change, we should first reconsider the desired outcomes of our economic, social and other policies. With the economy, the target might be growth, as measured by growth of gross domestic product (GDP).

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 08, 2020, with the headline How can Singapore reduce its reliance on foreign labour?. Subscribe