Singapore sees skilled job creation sliding in 2014 as labour restrictions bite

SINGAPORE - Singapore's main economic planning agency expects the number of new skilled jobs created this year to fall by 25-35 per cent, a sign that the government's efforts to curb the number of foreign workers and focus instead on boosting productivity are starting to make an impact.

Singapore expects to create 14,000 to 16,000 new skilled jobs in 2014, down from 21,400 in 2013, its Economic Development Board (EDB) said yesterday.

The government has put into place a number of schemes aimed at improving productivity of Singaporean workers and reducing the country's reliance on foreign labour, whose presence increasingly riles its citizens.

New rules that will require companies to consider Singaporeans for skilled vacancies before turning to candidates from abroad will kick in this August.

"Quite clearly, companies have to adjust to the changing manpower landscape in Singapore," EDB Chairman Leo Yip said.

"For some of them, it means changing the way they do their work in Singapore. For example, how robotics and technology can be used and the manpower can be deployed to do other things."

The city-state saw its productivity grow by 0.2 and 1.6 per cent in the second and third quarters of 2013, marking the first time it grew for two quarters since 2012, after six quarters of contraction.

According to Yip, the EDB has not seen any loss in investment projects due to the tightening labour market and regulations.

Fixed-asset investment (FAI) in Singapore fell 24 per cent to S$12.1 billion in 2013 from S$16 billion in 2012, figures from the EDB showed.

"If you look at the trend over the last five-10 years, you see that US$12 billion (S$15 billion) is actually well within the range that we have secured. There were several spikes (including 2012), and those spikes were big investments," Yip said.

While electronics still accounted for 27 per cent of total FAI last year, investment in the sector dropped by 46.8 per cent to US$3.3 billion.

FAI in the chemicals sector dropped 62.7 per cent to US$2.5 billion.