Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-jin announced on Monday that his Ministry would stand firm on its policy to tighten the intake of foreign workers. It said that, unlike previously, it would not do a U-turn this time – for now (see here).$CUT$
We traced how Finance Minister TharmanShanmugaratnam had said in 2010 that the Government would take stepsto reduce our dependence on foreign workers.
This position was re-iterated in March2011 by then-Manpower Minister MrGan Kim Yong (now Minister for Health) who said that his Ministrywould increase the foreign-worker levy in order to moderateSingapore’s demand for migrant workers.
That was before the general electionsin May 2011.
After the elections, however, Mr Tan Chuan-jin reported that the intake of foreignworkers had actually increased in 2012.
No more flip-flops?
Now, Mr Tan pledges that the Government would not flip-flopon the issue again. How should Singaporeans take this?
Earlier this year the Governmentreleased its White Paper on the population, revealing that it was going toincrease the population size to 6 million by 2020 and 6.9 million by2030.
Ifwe are going to hit these numbers, our country will have to absorb tens of thousands of foreigners each year, something which we have already been doing for the past several years. In other words, nothing has changed onthe policy front.
So how does Mr Tan’s promise squarewith the Government’s 6 million target by 2020?
The answer, perhaps, lies in the qualification that the policy stands only for now. Channel News Asia’s report was headlined:”Govt will not U-turn onforeign manpower policies innear future: TanChuan-Jin” (emphasis ours).
The report stated that Mr Tan”said the government will not be changing its decision on thetightening of foreign manpower policies for the foreseeablefuture.” (emphasis added again)
“Near future” and “foreseeablefuture” are, of course, undefined. Will they last only until afterthe next general elections like the previous U-turn?
It should also be pointed out that the present promise coincides with theslowing down of our economy. A downturn would cause businesses to reduce the hiring of workers, foreign ones included. Is the Government making a virtueout of necessity?
Theonly way that we can ensure that the population-immigration policy works inour people’s interest is to strengthen the opposition and elect the SDP into Parliament to push for the alternative spelt out in our paper Building A People: SoundPolicies For A Secure Future.
Our priority should be to enhance the quality of life of our people and ensure that we achieve a healthy work-life balance for everyone before we think of taking in more foreigners.