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Labour exodus to booming Singapore?
Wed, Jul 21, 2010
Sin Chew Daily

Its economic growth has soared unexpectedly by 19.3% in the second quarter, enabling it to raise its 2010 growth forecast to 13% to 15% from the earlier projection of 7% to 9%. It has surpassed China and may even become the world's fastest growing economy. The country is Singapore.

A stable neighbouring country is better than a chaotic neighbouring country and a rich neighbouring country is better than a poor neighbouring country.

I am not saying so to boost their morale. I just hope that we can also be as prosperous as our neighbouring country so that we can compare, compete and learn from each other in stability and prosperity.

Of course, that is a view from the bright side.

In fact, Singapore needs at least 100,000 more foreign workers in response to the demands of its booming economy. It may be good news to us but it can be a bad news to manufacturers of our country.

During the financial turmoil two years ago, many Malaysian guest workers in Singapore returned home and accepted lower-paid jobs or became unemployed after they were dismissed or their working days were cut. Today, with the strong economic rebound in Singapore, the attraction of working in the republic is gaining momentum.

The Singapore government has said that it would boost productivity to gradually reduce the reliance on foreign labour, even if it could cause a slower economic growth. However, in the short run, Singapore must face the reality and allow more foreign workers in to meet the country's urgent needs of human resources.

Undoubtedly, Malaysia is still the most convenient source for Singapore's external human resources. It is related to historical and geographical factors, as well as the similar cultures, beliefs and educational backgrounds of Malaysian workers that enable them to integrate into the working culture of Singapore much easier.

On the gloomy side, the outflow of large numbers of workers to Singapore will worsen the labour shortage problem faced by manufacturers in Johor. It will also increase the difficulties for the government to reduce the country's reliance on Indonesian workers.

Some people also predicted that once Malaysians workers flock to Singapore again, Johor Bahru may have to face another wave of immigration. These "new immigrants" from the northern and central Malaysia may help in the economic recovery of Johor Bahru, lead the housing industry out from the downturn and stimulate the saturated retail industry. However, they may also cause housing, rental and good price hikes and bring new social problems.

We must give close attention to these possible consequences and get prepared.

Of course, the most important thing is what have we seen and learned from the high degree of development and progress of our neighbouring country. But, are we learning?

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