The Singapore Business Federation (SBF) has expressed concerns that staffing problems may threaten the survival of SMEs, as companies struggle to hire locals for low-skilled jobs in the construction, retail, F&B and service sectors.
Analysis by Singapore work visa specialist Rikvin indicates that a smaller labor force will impede further economic growth, unless foreign workers are tapped to fill the manpower void.
Difficulty in Hiring Locals
According to data from the SBF, Singaporeans are increasingly becoming more difficult to hire for jobs with less than ideal working conditions. In general, the consensus is that Singaporeans are more averse to longer work hours or weekend shifts at minimum wages; they are also less inclined to work in physically challenging or remote industrial areas, among others.
As a result, most construction firms are unable to find locals who are willing to work as on-site engineers or accounts clerks, for example. Meanwhile, retailers, F&B providers, and firms in the services sectors, in general, are experiencing shortages in front-line service manpower.
In line with this, a white paper released by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) earlier last week indicated that a lower workforce is a major problem for Singapore. Entitled “Occasional Paper on Population and Economy”, the MTI report revealed that the city-state is challenged by an already high labor participation rate and an ageing working population, two factors that will weaken the labor force in the long term.
Smaller Workforce, Lower Productivity Rate
“Evidently, there is a prevalent shortage of labor in key industries. In spite of the ongoing debate, the reality is that there are more jobs than workers available. If this trend continues, the smaller firms will suffer from lack of manpower,” commented Mr. Satish Bakhda, General Manager and Head of Rikvin Operations. “In essence, a weakened labor force will hamper productivity growth, which in turn will have long-lasting repercussions in the economy.”
“To remain competitive as an international business center, Singapore must sustain its productivity by bolstering its workforce. This is why we need foreign workers to complement our existing labor pool and fill positions in industries that need the most,” he continued. “By granting more Singapore work permits, for example, we provide an alternative source of labor for SMEs or local companies with manpower shortages.”
“In addition, a smaller labor force will not only decrease real wages for workers, it will increase healthcare and public service costs as well. What we need to understand is that there is a very intricate relationship between the working population and the economy. Without foreign workers, our economic growth will slow down, especially in our pillar industries such as manufacturing, construction and services. Ultimately, if we allow more foreign workers, the benefits will be far-reaching and long-lasting,” he concluded.