SINGAPORE - From this month, foreign workers in restaurants and retail shops can be asked by their bosses to do more than one job.
Previously, they could do only the job they were hired for. So before the rules were changed, a waiter could not wash dishes or man the cash register.
This latest job flexibility scheme for work permit holders is a concession by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to help firms in the service sector cope with the tighter curbs on foreign workers.
It is timely. These firms face a double whammy from this month: Their foreign-worker quota has been cut and they will pay higher foreign-worker levies over the next two years.
And since these firms cannot hire more foreigners and have to pay higher taxes for currently employed ones, it makes sense to permit their foreign workers to do more work.
The ministry was clearly worried about bosses exploiting workers when it issued a set of guidelines asking firms to be sensible and reasonable when getting their workers to do more. Firms have to put the new job scope for their workers in writing, train the ones who agree to take on the additional roles and pay them more, said the MOM.
Besides concerns over exploitation, something else bears close watching too: Will the scheme boost productivity?
It will take more than safeguards for the new move to raise labour productivity. And the local workforce provides a clue on what might happen.