Thursday, August 6, 2009

Government to 're-tune' its foreign worker policy to arrest the declining productivity of Singapore workers

LABOUR leader Josephine Teo wants the .
Mrs Teo, who is also a Member of Parliament, has three suggestions on how to tweak the policy to reduce the over-reliance on foreign labour in sectors where the problem is rife.
Doing so will force the companies to review their work processes and improve their standards and this will lead to a boost in productivity, she said.
Mrs Teo, an assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), was speaking to about 150 workers of Tien Wah Press at the printing company's ceremony to mark National Day on Thursday.
Her call echoes a growing chorus in the labour movement for measures to halt the slide in labour productivity, or output per worker. It dipped 15.4 per cent in this second quarter, compared with the same period last year, continuing a steady decline since end-2007.
But the fault does not lie with Singaporean workers because they 'have been working as hard as they have been in the past', she said.
She blames the local companies, saying they failed to work smarter during an economic boom, choosing instead to hire foreign workers as an easier, cheaper option to meet higher orders.
Singapore has around one million foreigners in its workforce. About 870,000 are unskilled work permit holders labouring in construction and as domestic helpers.But falling productivity is an 'unintended consequence' of the foreign worker policy, she said, which she described as fundamentally sound.
She proposed changes in three areas:
* One, reduce the foreign worker quota in sectors with stagnating or falling productivity.
* Two, raise the quality of foreign workers allowed in, by setting higher skills standards and tightening regulations to ensure their superior qualifications are what Singapore requires.
* Third, 'reward' industries or firms that are productive with a higher foreign worker quota.
Mrs Teo, who had urged the Government to re-look the foreign worker quota during last year's Budget debate, said she is re-visiting the issue to offer another option as a solution. She stressed she is not casting her call as a 'foreign versus local' debate.

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