Echoes of past labour crunches are in the air

Echoes of past labour crunches are in the air
Above photo is Mr Edlan Chua.

SINGAPORE - Singapore has been there before, but never so deeply and not on this scale.

Da Nan Tang Tea House and Restaurant in Mosque Street stopped being a 24-hour establishment to open only 11 hours a day because it could not find enough wait staff amid Singapore's labour crunch.

"We used to have 12 waitresses," owner Teo BK said.

"Now we have only five. Those who could not get their work permits renewed dared not work for us."

Sounds familiar?

It could easily have been any of today's food and beverage (F&B) purveyors griping about the manpower drought, but Da Nang Tang Tea House cut down on its operations in 1991.

One thread remains common. "Singapore's labour shortage has always been tied to policy . . . and economic restructuring," said CIMB economist Song Seng Wun.

Right now, the government is tightening foreign worker policy and pushing businesses to improve productivity.

Just as Da Nan Tang Tea House all those years back, today Chef Lino Sauro of Gattopardo Italian Grill and Pizzabar tells BT that he has had to close his restaurant on Wednesdays, cut seating capacity to about 90 from 140 and accept 25 to 30 per cent less revenues.

All that as a result of being able to employ only 25 staff from the usual 36.

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