Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Some 150,000 more foreigners may be needed by 2030: NPTD Occasional Paper on the Projection of Foreign Manpower Demand for Healthcare Sector, Construction Workers and Foreign Domestic Workers

Bulk of workers would be maids, with rest in health care, construction
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 13 Nov 2012

The bulk - about 100,000 - will be needed as maids. About 15,000 will be in health care and the rest in construction.

The increase is due to the ageing population and increased building of transport infrastructure and flats.

The National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) made these estimates in an occasional paper released yesterday, noting that the figures "are not targets".

This follows an NPTD paper in July which gave an overview of population issues, and a Ministry of Trade and Industry paper in September on the economic importance of foreign workers.

In yesterday's paper, NPTD noted that health care, construction and domestic work "are sectors which primarily serve the needs of Singaporeans".

As the population ages, more workers are needed in hospitals or for nursing care.

NPTD estimates a demand for 91,000 health-care workers in 2030.

Of this, 28,000 are projected to be foreign health-care workers. Last year, there were 13,000 foreign workers in this sector out of a total of 50,000.

The expected demand for foreign construction workers was less clear-cut. On the one hand, the Government is expanding the rail network and building more flats and health-care facilities.

On the other hand, the industry's productivity push should reduce the number of workers needed.

Demand for foreign construction workers on low-skilled work permits could thus range from last year's level of 250,000 to a high of 300,000 by 2030, said NPTD.

In the shorter term - before productivity measures fully kick in - the number could rise to 280,000 in the next three years.

Singapore Contractors Association Limited president Ho Nyok Yong found the short-term estimate reasonable, but thought 2030 was "far too long" in the future to think about.

Demand from government plans may be predictable, but "private building follows the market", he said. High demand could outstrip productivity gains, meaning a need for more workers.

As for foreign domestic workers, NPTD expects demand to swell to a total of 300,000 by 2030, up from the 198,000 maids here last year.

There were 208,400 maids in June this year.

NPTD's projection is based on an expected rise in resident households with young or elderly members, as well as those where both spouses work.

These account for most of the demand for maids. Of all resident households with at least one maid last year, seven in 10 had both spouses working and three-quarters had young and/or elderly family members.

More elderly, non-working households are also hiring maids. Twelve per cent of such households had maids last year, up from 6 per cent in 2000.

But even if demand goes up, it might not necessarily be met.

The supply of foreign domestic workers to Singapore could be constrained by growing demand for them elsewhere, said NPTD.

Source countries might impose new requirements and restrictions on citizens who become maids. And job opportunities in those countries could improve.

Though foreign worker inflows have caused public unhappiness in recent years, this has rarely extended to maids, noted some political observers.

If anything, the projected higher demand for maids could assure the public "that the Government is recognising that households do need maids", said Singapore Management University assistant professor of law Eugene Tan.

More broadly, NPTD's paper is unlikely to spark further unhappiness as "it deals with three sectors that are not particularly attractive employment or career-wise for Singaporeans", said National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser.

But he acknowledged that some might well see the paper "as another attempt to justify letting in more foreigners, and to set higher targets, despite the paper reiterating that it reports only projections and not targets".

Sharp rise in numbers to be trained in health care
Govt paper estimates 91,000 health-care workers needed in 2030
By Salma Khalik, The Straits Times, 13 Nov 2012

TO MEET the demands of an ageing population, the number of people set to be trained in health care here will increase by more than 50per cent - from the current 2,520 a year to 3,810.

The bulk - 2,700 a year, up from the current 1,747 - will be nurses. The number of locally trained doctors will also rise, from 336 a year to 500. There will also be more dentists (from 48 now to 80), pharmacists (164 to 240) and therapists (225 to 290) a year.

The numbers were released yesterday in an occasional paper by the National Population and Talent Division. It did not set a date for when these numbers will be achieved, except to say this was a "target intake".

The paper estimated that, all in, Singapore will need 91,000 health-care workers in 2030, up from 50,000 last year.

The 41,000 increase comprises 32,000 health-care professionals and 9,000 lower-level support staff.

The majority of the 32,000 professionals - 23,000 - will be filled by Singaporeans and permanent residents, and the remaining 9,000 by foreigners.

When it comes to health-care support staff, 6,000 out of the projected 9,000 extra needed will be foreigners.

A Health Ministry spokesman said these support staff are "crucial", and they will help provide safe and good quality care in community hospitals, nursing homes and hospices.

More foreign maids will also be needed to help older people stay in the community instead of being placed in institutions.

The paper said the maids can "provide care-giving services for the elderly in the familiar environment of their own home with their family and friends".

It projected the number of maids here rising to 300,000, up from 198,000 last year.

To help more Singaporeans afford a maid, the Government gives a $95 rebate off the $265 maid levy for households with at least one person over the age of 65. Poorer households can get a $120-a-month grant to offset the cost of having a maid.

Dr Lam Pin Min, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said it was "inevitable" that foreigners would be needed in the health-care industry, given the time taken to train staff.

He added: "I hope the ministry will ensure that such foreign health-care workers come from reliable sources with high standards of training and professionalism, and have a decent command of English to facilitate quick assimilation and easy communication with the locals."

The Health Ministry spokesman said overseas-trained doctors and nurses from non-English language schools have to meet minimum standards in English proficiency before they are allowed to practise here.

"Their language skills are also monitored closely during supervision to ensure that patient care is not compromised," she said.

Concerns over govt's projected foreign manpower needs
By Saifulbahri Ismail, Channel NewsAsia, 13 Nov 2012

Non-government organisations (NGO), stakeholders and observers have raised concerns over the government's projection for more foreign manpower by 2030.

They wonder if the demand for labour in certain sectors can be met. Others said it is not just about the numbers but also whether Singapore can bring in the best quality of foreign manpower.

On November 12, the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) estimated that by 2030, Singapore may need about 150,000 more foreign workers in health care, construction and as maids.

As Singapore's population ages, demand for health care services, and home-based care will increase.

Demand for health-care workers could go up to 91,000 in 2030. Of this, 28,000 are projected to be foreign health-care workers.

Last year, there were 13,000 foreign workers out of a total of 50,000. In addition, the demand for foreign domestic workers is expected to increase to a total of 300,000 by 2030, up from the 198,000 maids here last year.

The construction sector will also require more manpower as the government ramps up infrastructure development.

The NPTD said demand for these workers on low-skilled work permits could range from last year's level of 250,000 to a high of 300,000 by 2030.

Economist from SIM Global Education, Dr Tan Khay Boon, said meeting the demand for foreign labour in some sectors may be a challenge.

Dr Tan said: "Among all the three areas, the construction sector is more likely easier to meet the demand. This is because a large number of foreign workers have been allocated to this sector to meet the infrastructure development requirements.

"But for the health care sector and the foreign domestic workers sector, this is more difficult to meet the demand. Mainly because these type of jobs locals find it less attractive and on top of that the supply of the domestic workers is limited probably due to the high economic growth rate in Indonesia and Philippines."

NGOs are also concerned about the quality of foreign manpower coming into Singapore as the country grapples with the issue of raising productivity.

Bridget Tan, president and founder of the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME), said: "We know there are other locations like Hong Kong that seems to attract the better quality migrant workers that are going out of the country because conditions of work in Hong Kong is much better than conditions of work in Singapore.

"This is the truth especially when we come to talk about the laws that protect migrant workers. Will we be attracting the right kind that will be coming in? We have to address those - the right skills and right quality of manpower that will also be productive in Singapore."

Sue Nurses Agency's director Susan Ng shared the same concern.

"Our main concern is to train a better pool to see what kind of health care workers should we recruit and what sort of training we should give and how much can they (provide) benefit to our people or elderly who needs these sort of care," said Ms Ng.

As the number of foreign workers increases, Ms Tan hopes there will be sufficient infrastructure to support them.

Ms Tan said: "For example, if they have a day off, what kind of amenities do we have in place to welcome these people without creating concerns and alarm among Singaporeans. Do we have enough space for housing of these foreign workers coming in here recreational space for them and other facilities to make their lives in Singapore a place where they can also call a second home."

The government has said that the estimated increases in foreign manpower are not targets.

They reflect changes in the demand for workers based on demographic trends.

Projection of foreign manpower demand for healthcare sector construction workers and foreign domestic workers 12 Nov 2012

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