Foreign workforce curbs “here to stay”, experts say

Economic specialists from Singapore’s largest banks offer their insights on what the future might hold for the newly elected PAP

With the victory of the People’s Action Party (PAP) at the polls last week, forecasts seem to be that the government will continue with its tighter restrictions on foreign manpower although limited flexibility may be offered in the future.
As the focus remains on building a strong “Singaporean core” and giving better opportunities to older workers, a spokesperson from DBS Bank didn’t expect any drastic changes by the government.
“The existing foreign manpower curbs and tight immigration policies are here to stay,” they told the Singapore Business Review.
However, the bank did say that easing in certain industries may be necessary especially in sectors such as healthcare where there was some social justification to boost staff numbers.
“Instead of leaning towards extreme populism, expect policies to remain balanced and prudent even when the decision making becomes more bottom-up,” the DBS spokesperson said.
Joseph Incalcaterra, economist at HSBC, offered a similar analysis.
“[Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong] made it clear that the government cannot dramatically curtail foreign labour inflows,” Incalcaterra said.
“To us, this implied that the government could seek a more flexible approach to its immigration policies and try to limit the negative consequences for certain sectors.”
He added that the PAP may bring in some “small tweaks” to reduce pressure on certain sectors hit by this slowdown in growth. This is precisely what happened in the 2015 budget when foreign worker levy increases were temporarily frozen within the construction and manufacturing industries.
Related stories:
What the Singapore election result means for HR
Government releases new foreign worker growth figures
Lim Swee Say on maintaining a two thirds Singaporean core

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