The Positive and Negative Impacts of Relying on Foreign Manpower in Singapore

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Singapore is experiencing low birth rates which means there may be a decrease in the local working population pool. As such, foreign manpower would have to be brought in to enhance productivity and to stimulate growth. (Mills, 2018)

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The aim of this report is to increase awareness of the government, specifically, the officials of the Ministry of Manpower on the impacts of relying heavily on foreign labour, especially on the locals.


This report covers both the positive and negative impacts of relying on foreign manpower, along with the extent of the negative effects on the locals. This report would not cover extensively on the alternatives to human manpower and the specific ways to reduce reliance on foreign manpower.


Advantages of bringing in foreign manpower

The locals are unwilling to take up low-skilled jobs, due to the low wages and strenuous work environment. (Fang, 2015) As such, these foreign manpower proves to be beneficial as they would be able to fill in the gaps where the locals were unable to. These foreign manpower are willing to fill in the vacancies for lower-skilled jobs as they reap more benefits than the locals do, especially in terms of their wages.

For instance, the number of foreigners in the construction sector is twice the number of locals in the same sector and thus indicates the reluctance of the locals to fill in these lower-skilled job, along with the need for foreigners to take up these vacancies so as to continue to reap high productivity levels in Singapore.

Disadvantages of bringing in foreign manpower

The act of bringing in foreign talents results in neglection of the local talents and their growth in the economy. Furthermore, it has caused a decline in the locals’ employment rate. (Chuang, 2016) As stated, Singapore has fallen 5 places down the standing of IMD’s World Talent Ranking.

Singapore is not listed in the world’s top 10 ranking, thus displaying our incompetencies among other nations. The reason behind Singapore’s lower ranking was due to “lack of development of local talent(s)” which highlights on the above statistics.

The locals lack the necessary expertise and skills for certain industries and as such companies bring in foreign talent to fill in these gaps, instead of upgrading the skills of these locals to allow them to specialise. As such, minimum efforts were made to upgrade the skills of the locals and they lose out to the foreigners.

In addition, companies in Singapore are unable to create new jobs, which might place a higher percentage in Singaporean workers losing out in finding jobs (Chua, 2015). Thus, the lack of development and job opportunities for the local talents raised the number of intake of foreign talents.

The extent of impact on local working population.

The influx of foreign talent has given rise to anti-foreigners sentiments, where the locals resent having foreigners around them, with the reason “being Singaporeans blamed foreigners for taking their jobs so they drew the line between foreigners and Singaporeans,” as mentioned by NUS sociologist, Paulin Straughan, in a Today interview.

Though these locals do not openly discriminate them, they are “being tolerated rather than welcomed” as mentioned by T S, a British director of a technology company. The locals take no effort to connect with the foreigners, and this would adversely affect Singapore’s image.

As such, the government has implemented several measures to reduce competition between locals and the foreigners, and increase job opportunities for them. With this, the government hopes to reassure the locals, and control the locals’ resentment towards the foreigners.


Tightening of foreign manpower policy is not very effective, as Singapore would still have to rely on foreign talents to grow its economy and ensure high productivity. As such, embarking on innovative technologies would replace the need for more foreigners, while assuring Singaporeans of their relevance in Singapore. Singapore would also have to tap on other measures to encourage growth and productivity without solely relying on human labour.


It is recommended for Singapore to reduce reliance on foreign manpower, they may want to take the following actions:

Embark on taking advantage of the AI. According to a statistic, “an additional robot reduces the employment-to-population ratio by 0.18 to 0.34 percentage points”. Therefore, it is proven that AI will help to reduce the heavy reliance of foreign talents in order to give local talents more job opportunities.

Improving the skills of the locals. SkillsFuture can be one of the platforms where everyone is able to improve and upgrade themselves in various sectors of the workforce where dynamics would keep changing. After all, the skill sets that employees can provide for the companies is the most critical criteria for job employments.

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