In response to media queries, MOM statement on net inflow of migrant workers
There have been recent calls by members of the public to close our borders entirely, so that we can bring down the number of imported COVID-19 infections. At the same time, businesses have been appealing for more workers to be allowed to enter Singapore to address manpower shortages.
Over the last year, the outflow of migrant workers has exceeded the inflow, as many workers have ended their contracts and chosen to return home. As a result of border restrictions to mitigate importation risks, we have not been able to adequately replace those who have left Singapore. From 2 May 2021, we completely stopped entry of all from South Asia.
Indeed, the impact to businesses and families would have been severe, had we not allowed any migrant worker to enter Singapore after Circuit Breaker last year:
- There would now be 70,000 fewer migrant workers in Singapore to work in services sector, including essential services such as healthcare and cleaning.
- There would now be 30,000 fewer construction workers in Singapore to work on key infrastructure and building projects.
- And Singapore households would have had 30,000 fewer migrant domestic workers.
Border restrictions will impact Singaporeans’ daily lives and this will be felt more keenly in the coming weeks and months.
We agree it makes sense to try to retain our existing workers. Indeed, many businesses are already doing so. They offer workers higher retention bonuses; and industry associations have been facilitating transfers of workers to new employers. However, many migrant workers are understandably homesick, are worried about their families at home, and wish to return home.
Since January 2021, we have implemented an additional 7-day testing regime for all newly arrived workers from the Construction, Marine and Process sectors, after they have completed their 14-day Stay Home Notice1. This means workers stay at dedicated facilities for a total of 21 days before they are assessed to be safe to enter worksites and dormitories. On top of that, they are immediately placed on our rostered routine testing regime alongside with other workers. Our restrictions on inflow of workers from higher-risk countries will also likely persist for some time, until the situation improves. This is the only way we can ensure the safe inflow of workers, while managing the risk of transmission in the community. We are mindful of the manpower crunch that our businesses will face, and the caregiving help that our families will need, as a result.