Monday, 25 February 2013

SMEs' association critical of WP population paper

Proposal to freeze number of foreign workers 'another blow to local SMEs'
By Toh Yong Chuan, The Straits Times, 25 Feb 2013

THE Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME) has hit out strongly at the Workers' Party's (WP) population paper, calling it "another blow to the local SME community".

In a statement yesterday, ASME took issue with the WP's proposal to freeze foreign worker numbers at the present level and to grow the resident workforce by 1 per cent a year by attracting more women and older Singaporeans back to work.

The association pointed out that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have painfully accepted the Government's tightening of the number of foreign workers, "only to now hear that the WP proposes an even more drastic deceleration".

The proposals were among ideas in the WP's 38-page paper, issued on Saturday, which fleshes out the key arguments made by its Members of Parliament during the Population White Paper debate earlier this month.

On the WP's measures to boost the local labour force participation rate, the association said: "This is easier said than done as there is an element of mismatch between available jobs and workers' expectations."

It cited as an example mismatches in the construction and food and beverage sectors, whereby vacancies are shunned by locals because they want higher pay and more comfortable working conditions.

The association said that abrupt changes in reducing the foreign workers quota have already caused many SMEs to relocate or close down, resulting in a loss of income and jobs for Singaporeans.

Should more SMEs fail, it warned, the overall quality of life in Singapore may dip as well.

Fewer SMEs mean that there would be fewer professional, executive and managerial (PME) jobs for the growing ranks of Singaporean PMEs. Asme reiterated that it supports the Government's move to boost the local workforce while tightening the inflow of foreign workers.

However, the pace of controlling the foreigners should be "gradual" and "progressive", not "cutting it down to zero" which was what the WP proposed.

ASME also expressed support for a point made by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu, in her response on Saturday to the WP paper, that there is a need to allow SMEs to adjust and make the transition.

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