Migrant workers from India to be brought in, but in small numbers

Pilot led by the construction, marine and process sectors

Since end-2019, the number of work permit holders in the construction, marine and process sectors has declined by more than 15 per cent or 60,000. This has resulted in project delays and significant increase in labour costs, according to leading asso
Since end-2019, the number of work permit holders in the construction, marine and process sectors has declined by more than 15 per cent or 60,000. This has resulted in project delays and significant increase in labour costs, according to leading associations of the three sectors.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Migrant workers from India will be brought into Singapore on a small scale and in a calibrated manner this month through a pilot programme led by the construction, marine and process (CMP) sectors.

If successful, this method will be used to facilitate a steady inflow of migrant workers in a safe and secure manner, said the sectors' leading associations in a joint statement yesterday.

The associations are the Singapore Contractors Association Limited (SCAL), the Association of Singapore Marine Industries and the Association of Process Industry.

The move comes after zero incidences of Covid-19 cases in the first few batches of workers entering from Malaysia last month under the pilot for the marine sector, they said in the statement.

"We will continue to carry this (the pilot) out on a small scale and in a calibrated manner to better manage the risks involved and validate the robustness of the tightened end-to-end process," they said.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, a spokesman for SCAL said the CMP sectors are looking at bringing in "a few hundred workers from India but it will be done in batches".

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, the CMP sectors have been severely affected by restrictions on the inflow of migrant workers.

Currently, those who have recent travel history to Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India are not allowed to enter Singapore under enhanced border restrictions.

Entry applications for work pass holders from higher-risk countries or regions are also no longer accepted, except for workers needed in key strategic projects and infrastructural works.

Work pass holders from these countries, who were approved to enter Singapore before July 5, are also not allowed to do so now, with some exceptions.

Last month, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said more migrant workers and foreign domestic helpers will soon be allowed to enter Singapore to work, to ease the "immense pressures" faced by companies since the start of the pandemic.

Yesterday, the three associations said since end-2019, the number of work permit holders in these sectors has declined by more than 15 per cent or 60,000.

"This has resulted in project delays and significant labour cost increase, which in turn affect the viability of businesses," they said.

"Besides delays in housing and infrastructure projects which have implications for home owners and Singaporeans, there are implications for Singapore's global competitiveness, credibility of our businesses and locals employed in these sectors when projects are not delivered on time or terminated," they added.

They said the labour crunch could also increase the risk of workplace accidents.

Even as the sectors continue in their efforts to boost productivity, they still need access to manpower, said the statement.

To address this, the sectors piloted a tightened end-to-end process to bring in migrant workers from overseas, initially from Malaysia.

The process relies on testing of the workers for Covid-19 over a 14-day period at specific on-boarding facilities in their source country before they depart for Singapore. Once the workers arrive in Singapore, they are placed on stay-home notice (SHN) and are subject to prevailing health protocols and safe management measures.

The pilot programme aims to integrate the overseas training, testing and on-boarding process with Singapore's on-arrival testing and SHN requirements, said the associations. This is to ensure the overall well-being of the workers before they are allowed to commence work, they said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2021, with the headline 'Migrant workers from India to be brought in, but in small numbers'. Subscribe