We employed cheap foreign labour for low value-added services to increase margins in sectors such as construction and shipping. There are unseen costs to society, such as displacement of Singaporeans, lowering of wages, and the environment.
It is heartwarming for human rights organizations to address low living conditions for these foreign workers. Many have done the right thing to feed them, help them and push policymakers for better living conditions.
But we are not addressing the main problem. Should labour be this cheap?
This is a suitable time to ask this question. As we try to house foreign workers in better dormitories, space them out further, business bottom line will be affected. What if we increase the pay of construction workers, foreman, and attract Singaporeans to take on these jobs?
Businesses and government previously shared how Singaporeans are unwilling to take on these hard jobs. Any job will be unattractive if the compensation does not commensurate with effort.
We have seen how global pandemics can impact the supply chain of labour, raw materials and even food. We need to reduce our dependence on foreign workers. Businesses may claim that they need these workers to balance their books. But they do not see the real costs (addressed above). Increase the wages, put more locals back in these positions.