Singapore has given out dependant pass, employment pass and other Singapore work pass types to foreigners to complement resident workforce. This is because Singapore will have to retain a substantial foreign workforce for lower-skilled jobs while keeping the higher skilled jobs for its citizens. The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) has made a strong case for Singapore to continue to make fine adjustments to the inflow of foreigners as the country faces an ageing population and dwindling workforce.

It also stressed that the days of high economic growth are over. The time now for Singaporeans to come to a consensus, on the appropriate level of growth for the next 10 to 30 years. Based on the country’s stage of development, Singapore’s Economic Strategies Committee has said that a GDP growth of between three and five per cent a year is a healthy target to aim for. It exceeds those of most advanced countries that typically grow by two to three per cent.

But to achieve this, there needs to be re-think of growth strategies, especially against the backdrop of a shrinking workforce. The ministry outlined three broad approaches in a paper on population and the economy.

Firstly, MTI said Singapore should continue to raise productivity through business restructuring and retraining of the workforce. Secondly, the country should also work towards raising the resident labour force participation rate. However, the ministry said there is a limit to this. The third strategy is to have a calibrated level of immigration and foreign manpower — both for high-skilled and low-skilled workers.

Since Singapore needs foreigners to complement its resident workforce, Singapore can issue out dependant pass Singapore, Singapore work pass types and employment pass to the qualified foreigners. It can also strive to raise its resident work force participation. For example, getting more women to work and keeping the elderly employed. Singapore’s male labour force participation rate is already one of the highest in the world, at 92.1 per cent for those aged 25 to 64.

While a percentage point increase in the labour force participation rate will add about 30,000 resident workers to Singapore’s labour force of 3.2 million, it is not possible to continually increase the figure by one percentage point every year.

For the first time, authorities have revealed the distribution of foreign workers with Singapore work pass and employment pass in the economy. While many go to construction and manufacturing, the bulk – 41 per cent or more than 400,000 foreign workers – go to the services sector like F&B, retail, finance, landscaping and security.

The ministry said most are transient workers. And while some Singaporeans may have expressed concerns about the presence of foreigners depressing wages, taking away jobs and even encroaching on space, Mr Lim noted that it’s a different argument when you look at the sectors which these foreign workers are contributing to.

The ministry also estimates that by 2030, the number of Singaporeans who are professionals, managers, and executives (PMEs), as well as technicians and associate professionals (TAP) will rise.

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