Foreign Labor in Singapore
The impact it has on it’s economy
Table of contents
2. The development of foreign workers from 1965 to present
3. Female domestic workers
4. The benefits and costs on the economy
5. Alternatives for foreign workers
Singapore is the smallest member of the ASEAN1, with a total area of 716.1 km2 and a population of over 5 million people. But small does not mean it is not a force to be reckoned with. Since Singapore’s independence in 1965, it has experienced great economic development and created a quality of life for its citizens comparable to that in today’s top countries of the world. This immense economic growth can be attributed to the government’s introduction of an export oriented economic plan: trade became Singapore’s growth engine (Huff, 1994, p.299). The result in the decades that came after was a rapid GDP growth of 7 to sometimes 10 percent per year. Sustaining this high GDP growth almost immediately became the government’s main goal (Huff, 1994, p.301). However, great growth goes hand in hand with a great demand of labor. With the rapid rates of growth in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s this resulted in domestic labor shortages, which forced Singapore to turn to foreign workers as a solution. Though, the economy was practically founded on foreign labor, with most of its population being descendants of immigrants from China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia since the founding of the city in 1819 (Fong and Lim, 1982, p.548-549). As the economy kept developing and growing so did the immigration of workers, to the point that Singapore’s foreign work force became an indispensable part of its economic, political and social forces. With such a great impact on Singapore’s society, these foreign workers undoubtedly bring their benefits and costs to the table. In this essay I would like to research if these benefits really outweigh the costs, and if there is an alternative to the extreme use of foreign workforces. Another aspect I would like to shed light on is foreign female workforces. I chose females, because women are becoming more needed in the labor sector, but also greatly desired as maids in homes so housewives can also participate in labor. The impact this has on the economy is surely something to be noted and will be further examined.
2. The foreign workers through the years
The definition for foreign workers I will be referring to in this essay is: “[these are] employees who have no permanent residential status in the host country and who seek overseas employment without sponsorship from any firm in their home nations”. This definition is stated by Ang, Van Dyne and Begley (2003).2 Like them, I will also not focus on expatriates, because these do not apply to the previous given definition since they did not move to find a new job and/or new life possibilities (unlike foreign workers). Singapore divides immigrants into different categories, based on their origin and education and/or skills. Peninsular Malaysians and Chinese are put in the category “traditional source” whilst “un-traditional sources” are considered Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh (Huff, 1994, p.159). This last group lives in uncertainty. This is because in times of economic prosperity they are the first to be imported to reduce work shortages and in times of recession, they are also the first to be laid off to make more room for employment for citizens. Education also has an influence on this division in categories. Immigrants are categorized into low-skilled or unskilled (low or no education) and high-skilled workers (higher education). Women are mostly categorized as low skilled workers. Singapore’s government has been wanting to lean more from an industrial economy towards a knowledge economy. To do so, they try to...
References: Ang S., Van Dyne L and Begley T.M
2003 The employment relationships of foreign workers versus local employees: a field study of organizational justice, job satisfaction, performance, and OCB.
Fong P.E. and Lim L.
1982 Foreign Labor and Economic Development in Singapore.
1994 The economic growth of Singapore: Trade and development in the twentieth century.
1984 Singapore’s Foreign Workforce: Some reflections on its benefits and Costs.
Yeoh B.S.A, Huang S. and Gonzalez the 3rd J.
1999 Migrant Female Domestic Workers: Debating the Economic, Social and Political, Impacts in Singapore.
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