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SINGAPORE: MIGRANT WORKERS


MIGRANT WORKERS – THE SINGAPORE EXPERIENCE


Dealing with the issue of labour migration in a densely populated small island state like Singapore is one that requires careful management. Housing the migrant workers is only one of the issues that needs addressing; protecting the vulnerable migrant workers and educating them on their rights and responsibilities also come into play, writes the country’s Senior Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Manpower.


Mr Hawazi Daipi , MP


Mr Daipi is the Senior Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Manpower in Singapore. He has been an elected Member of Parliament of Singapore since 1997. Following his first election, he worked in the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) for five years before being appointed into a government position in 2005. Apart from the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health, Mr Daipi has also previously served in the Ministry of Health.


Introduction


Labour migration is a complex and multidimensional issue. The experience of countries all over the world has shown that an influx of labour migration beyond the innate absorptive capacity of a country’s economic and social infrastructure inevitably brings challenges. Moreover, the issues evolve as the needs and expectations of nationals of both origin and destination countries change over time. No one country has the perfect solution, and we continually seek to improve the frameworks and practices which are relevant to our specific contexts. Singapore is no exception.


Background


Singapore has a particular circumstance. It is a small island-state whose land mass is less than half the size of Greater London. Within this space, we have just over 3 million citizens who are primarily the


158 | The Parliamentarian | 2014: Issue Three Mr Hawazi Daipi, MP


descendents of migrants. The migrant workforce has always been part of our economic and social landscape. Throughout our short history, migrant workers have complemented our resident workforce and contributed significantly to economic progress and the wellbeing of our people. At present, about a third of our current workforce, or about 1.3 million workers, is from the migrant community.


While we recognize the benefits


of migrant labour, the physical constraints of our size and limited resources impels us to strike a balance to ensure that the growth in our migrant workforce is sustainable. In line with the recommendations made by the Economic Strategies Committee in 2010, we have been moderating the growth of the migrant workforce with a greater emphasis on workforce productivity improvements. Broadly, our strategy focuses on economic restructuring and investing in training and technology to reduce the overall demand for manpower, thereby moderating the rate of growth of our migrant workforce.


Sustainable migration Effective management of the migrant workforce is an area that the Singapore Government pays great attention to. Since 2008, an Inter- Ministerial Committee, comprising government ministries that look into a wide range of issues, including manpower, physical infrastructure,


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