Hands up, how many S’poreans out there want to work in construction?


HANDS UP, how many Singaporeans out there want to work in construction?  

Not many, as the Labour Market Report for the end of last year shows. Just go to paragraph five here. It clearly states that total employment in Singapore grew by 88,400, with this increase mainly (83,500) from non-residents working in construction and manufacturing.  

Meanwhile, resident employment growth grew mostly (4,900) in the more lucrative finance and professional services sectors. Hands up, then, those Singaporeans who want to work in those. That might be a career switch (SkillsFuture covers people on that), because 66.2 per cent of Singapore residents are employed; this is very close to full employment, so this number cannot increase much further.    

Petir.sg is asking for these shows of hands because in Parliament this week (Apr 2) a Workers’ Party Member of Parliament asked for the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to ensure that most new jobs created go to Singaporeans. Evidently, the Member did not read that paragraph five. What’s next? Asking the Ministry to provide individual hard hats and shovels for each Singaporean assigned to labour at these new jobs? Despite the findings about the construction sector’s public unpopularity? 

“The Member seems to be under the misconception that a net increase in foreign employment means that jobs are not going to Singaporeans. If that is so, this view is fundamentally misguided,” said Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng to the Workers’ Party MP. 

“So really if you want, compare the types of jobs that Singaporeans would prefer to be in,” added Minister Tan. 

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Source: Tan See Leng/ Facebook

This Opposition question comes also when MOM already safeguards resident employment. Look back at recent history: During the pandemic years from 2020 to 2022, resident employment growth increased by over 110,000 even while non-resident employment declined by 3,000.  

Plus, there is the fact that the number of Singaporean professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) has increased 380,000 between 2013 to 2023 — this is a Singapore Core-strengthening seven times the corresponding increase for non-resident PMETs. 

The Workers’ Party’s anxiety on new jobs, then, is somehow doubly unaware.  

It does not consider what Singaporean workers actually want. It does not research how many Singaporean workers have actually benefited from PAP Government manpower policies over the past decade.   

PAP policies have increased Singaporeans’ real income by 21.6 per cent

But wait!, the Workers’ Party cries! What about the tax breaks and the Economic Development Board’s (EDB) efforts to attract foreign direct investment here? These don’t benefit Singaporean workers much!   

Well, who is to make bones about the fact these tax breaks and EDB efforts exist for good reason? You bring in foreign direct investments and multinational companies (MNCs), you provide good jobs to more Singaporeans. Just look at how Dyson Singapore increased its headcount by 35 per cent in 2023, and how the 10 biggest MNCs meant jobs for around 30,000 Singaporean PMETs at the height of the pandemic.  

The alternative under the Workers’ Party logic, you would find, is no extra job creation and a shrinking of Singapore’s economy. A company, no matter its size, needs both foreign and local talent in order to grow and contribute to Singapore’s finances, especially in this globalised economy and Singapore’s tight labour market close to full employment.

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Source: cegoh / Pixabay, kyontra / Getty Images 

Plus, at the level of the individual worker, the PAP Government’s manpower policies have constantly brought prosperity to Singapore.     

“Over the [past] decade, resident income has also increased by 21.6 per cent in real terms. So we must not view residents and foreigners as a zero-sum game and continue to draw divides. Thriving businesses with access to complementary foreign talent will not only lead to more job creation but also improve overall wage outcomes as businesses expand and improve their productivity,” said Minister Tan. 

Hands up one final time, then, if you are for good jobs to work at and for an ecosystem which makes this possible.