SINGAPORE: Minister of State for Manpower Amy Khor has rebutted several points raised by the Chairman of the Workers’ Party, Sylvia Lim, during the debate on the White Paper on Population.
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, Dr Khor warned that this would exact punishing cost on local businesses and even some MNCs.
Dr Khor explained that based on the Workers’ Party’s proposals of lowering the GDP growth proposed by 0.5 to 1 percentage point, the corresponding total workforce growth worked out to 0.5 per cent per annum for the next two decades.
This was less than one sixth of the 3.3 per cent total workforce growth over the last 30 years.
Dr Khor noted that businesses were already feeling the pain of tighter foreign manpower restrictions over the last few years.
She said they have collectively expressed horror over the White Paper’s projected slowdown in workforce growth to about 1 to 2 per cent in this decade and then to 1 per cent in the next decade.
Many companies, especially SMEs, are reportedly scrapping expansion plans or thinking of moving out their plants. They are understandably worried that further foreign manpower restrictions will cripple their businesses.
Dr Khor said, "Whilst raising productivity through innovation, technology and process improvement can help reduce their dependence on labour. There is also a limit as to how far this can go. Already, the productivity targets of 2 to 3 per cent per annum till 2020 and then 1 to 2 per cent per annum after 2020 to 2030 are stretched targets.
"By comparison, we have, on average, only managed productivity growth of just 1.8 per cent per annum over the last decade. This is despite generous incentives for companies to take advantage of and numerous discussions with business groups and employers to refine the schemes and ease the path for firms to access them."
Dr Khor argued that the Workers’ Party’s proposal to sharply cut workforce growth would exact punishing cost on the local businesses and even some MNCs.
She said under this scenario, many companies are likely to fold or move out of Singapore whilst others will not be attracted to set up shop here resulting in fewer jobs for Singaporeans.
She cautioned that to curb immigration or foreign workforce growth with such a proposal in order to help safeguard Singaporeans could, in an ironic twist, hurt the very people this reversal is intended to help.
Dr Khor, who is also the chairman of the Feedback Unit REACH, also defended the White Paper on Population saying contrary to what some critics have charged, the document is not fixated with economic growth.
She added that the White Paper is, in fact, about ensuring the well—being of Singaporeans into the future and to allow Singaporeans to fulfil their aspirations. These include having good jobs, good wages and a good quality of life amidst massive demographic challenges, intense global competition and severe resource constraints.
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