Prime Minister Lee offers advice all HRDs should heed

Prime Minister Lee has given a revealing interview covering topics such as immigration, talent acquisition and demographics. What can HR learn from this?

Prime Minister Lee offers advice all HRDs should heed
“In 25 years, if we can’t get our demography balance between our births and immigration of foreign workers, we will be in a very tight spot like the Japanese are,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said during a recent interview with Time magazine.
In the interview, Prime Minister Lee also highlighted the delicate balance between creating a strong Singaporean identity and bringing in new talent from overseas. “If you don’t have that Singapore core, you can top up the numbers, but you are no longer Singapore. It doesn’t feel Singapore, it isn’t Singapore and we can issue everybody red passports, but where is the continuity?” he said.
With more than 1.3 million foreign workers in Singapore, the government has successfully slowed down new growth with regards to the import of overseas recruitment in an effort to push for more local talent acquisition. However, faced with an ageing population, other solutions may be required. Prime Minister Lee mentioned this, saying it was also crucial “to have enough of our own children for the next generation”. Done successfully, this would then produce a new wave of Singaporean workers who could develop the country even further in 25 years.
Currently, predictions for Japan estimate that 40% of the population will be 65 years and older in 2060. This lack of young workers will create severe problems and is a scenario that the Singaporean government is keen to avoid. In 2014, 11.2% of Singapore’s population was over 65, an increase of 6.7% from 2013. Looking at the number of residents aged under 20 in the same time period, this actually decreased by 1.7% to make up 22.5% of the total population. This points towards the country’s ageing population and a crisis which the Singapore government is trying to avert.
This issue was brought up at the Ho Rih Hwa Leadership in Asia Public Lecture Series with Prime Minister Lee saying, “Our economy would be stagnant or declining. The whole tone of the society instead of being young and forward-looking, would be pessimistic, oriented to the status quo or even looking towards a glorious past. I think that is a sad place to be in.”
In the Time magazine interview, Prime Minister Lee also had the following warning to give about failing to improve the economy. "If we don't get to the next level, then we will have malaise and the angst, and even disillusionment, which you see in many developed countries," he said.
This statement falls in line with the long-term strategies that the PM and his cabinet have been pushing for to drive stronger local recruitment. The following policies have been brought into play recently:
  • Salary limits for foreign workers were raised for those wanting to relocate their spouse, children or parents
  • Employers are required to publish salary ranges of open positions they are advertising into the Jobs Bank
  • Firms with higher numbers of foreign professionals, managers and executives will face greater scrutiny with recruiting
  • An increase on foreign worker levies for both S Pass and Work Pass holders has been proposed
  • New dependency ceilings were introduced which limit the highest ratio of foreign to local workers that a company can employ
These tighter rules should restrict the flow of foreign workers and give local firms the incentive and drive to develop Singaporean abilities in order to meet the Prime Minister’s grand 25-year plan.
Related stories:
PM calls on Singapore workers to lift their game
Singapore needs more workers, less grads – PM
“For if this government fails, what is going to happen to you, to Singapore?” – Lee

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