According to finance minister Heng Swee Keat, the Singapore government does need to review its foreign manpower policy “in the coming years” but the current strict controls on hiring will remain as part of a nationwide productivity push.
The flexibility may be comforting news for businesses as the government has, on several occasions, remained adamant that there would not be a U-turn from the policies despite requests.
"Do we need to review [foreign manpower policies]? I'd say that, yes, we do, in the coming years,” Heng said.
“But I don't want to send the wrong expectation that anytime soon, we are going to make changes. Then the pressure [to boost productivity] will be lost. We need to keep up with this thrust."
Changes should also not be made “too hastily”.
"Our priority in the coming years must be to continue to develop Singaporeans' capabilities and, at the same time, having a well-calibrated inflow of foreign manpower that can complement our people,” finance minister Heng Swee Keat said in an interview with local media.
“Because if you can get a cheap worker, why will I bother to automate? Therefore, you never learn to automate, and you never need to operate in a different way.”
He added that Singapore needs to maintain the “well-calibrated” policy in order to send a very strong signal that productivity improvement is going to be key.
Heng also urged local firms to tap on regional talent as they move towards making their businesses international.
According to TODAY, Heng had called the interview to provide an update on the Future Economy Council (FEC), which is tasked to develop skills for the future and to support productivity-led economic growth.
Earlier this year, manpower minister Lim Swee Say had announced an increase in the minimum qualifying salary for S Pass holders from $2,200 to $2,400.
MOM had also tightened the criteria for Employment Pass (EP) holders in terms of their salary, qualification and experience.