Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Govt will not U-turn on foreign manpower policies in near future

By Hetty Musfirah Abdul Khamid, Channel NewsAsia, 15 Apr 2013

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said the government will not be changing its decision on the tightening of foreign manpower policies for the foreseeable future.

The focus he said is to help companies ease off their dependence on foreign labour and succeed in the adjustment process.

Mr Tan was speaking at a recording of Channel NewsAsia's programme "Ask Minister".

He said: "I think I need to be quite definitive here, so that the signal is clear. For some time, the industry was thinking that government will make a U-turn. Therefore, the changes (the government hoped to achieve) did not quite happen. (Businesses) were hoping that if the pressure was high enough, we will make adjustments. As a result of that, the propensity to change the way we do things was not so significant." 

Mr Tan said should affected companies close down, assistance will be provided to them and their workers to find alternatives.

Going forward, Mr Tan said the government is looking for a leaner manpower set-up and businesses which depend on cheap labour should rethink how their businesses are run.

"We need to rethink the way we do business in sectors where we depend on low-wage, cheaper labour. We need to rethink - either the way we do business and the way we operate. Perhaps some of these sectors may not be quite relevant after all," he said.

Wage growth will be another focus in the next couple of years.

Mr Tan said he is "very uncomfortable with the fact" that some of the wages of low wage workers have remained quite stagnant for some time.

He pointed that the government has already enhanced the Workfare programmes and adjusted the CPF contributions.

He said more will be done to put in place progressive work practices in industries such as security and cleaning.

"We are looking at restructuring, and for progressive work practices to be put in place. Structurally, we hope to see wages move up, augmented by the different measures to support inclusive growth," he said.
As the economy restructures, Mr Tan said the aim is to provide Singaporeans at all levels with good opportunities and good jobs.


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