Singapore needs foreign manpower as there are simply not enough locals to meet demand and ensure the country stays ahead of the competition, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said.
As manpower growth in the workforce is slowing, Singapore stands a better chance of winning good investments and good jobs only if the local and foreign manpower work together as "one Singapore Workforce", he added.
Several MPs spoke about the importance of a Singaporean Core in the workforce yesterday.
Mr Lim acknowledged the perception among some Singaporeans who felt they were in a minority in their workplaces. He said this was due to pockets where foreigners are concentrated.
But growth in Employment Passes (EPs) has also slowed down from 32,000 in 2011 to 9,000 last year.
Going forward, the ministry will assess whether companies have a Singaporean core compared with the rest of their industry, and look at their commitment to developing this core as well as the value of the company to the country.
Companies that are weak in all three criteria will be advised to build their Singaporean core. If they remain resistant, they will face closer scrutiny and could see their EP privileges curtailed.
This, he said, was "not because we are anti-foreigner, but because their behaviour has added to the deepening of the 'local-foreign' divide in our Singapore workforce".
Strong companies will get more support to bring in foreign experts to share know-how with locals.
Toh Yong Chuan