Allow foreign workers into S'pore in safe and controlled manner, say construction firms

SINGAPORE – Key representatives from the construction industry and built environment sector are appealing to the Government to allow foreign workers to enter Singapore in a safe and controlled manner as the pandemic continues to cause manpower constraints.

A statement issued on Monday by the Construction Industry Joint Committee – comprising The Institution of Engineers, Singapore, the Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore and the Singapore Contractors Association, among others – said that while the industry is supportive of the Government’s efforts to curb a resurgence of Covid-19 as new virus variants emerge in Singapore, manpower challenges will be seriously exacerbated if borders are shut for a prolonged period.

“The complexity and nature of construction work necessitates the deployment of workers from various trades, and the current reduced workforce is already working at maximum capacity, increasing the risks of workplace incidents. We are suffering from reduced productivity due to safe management measures at worksites and many of our migrant workers plan to return home when their work permits expire,” said the committee, which was set up in 2000.

Other members of the committee include the Association of Consulting Engineers Singapore, the Singapore Green Building Council, the Singapore Institute of Architects, the Singapore Institute of Building, the Singapore Institute of Surveyors and Valuers, and the Society of Project Managers.

The committee warned that home buyers waiting for their HDB and private property may have to wait even longer for their properties to be completed.

“Public infrastructure projects such as hospitals, MRT and schools and industrial developments which are vital to the nation’s economy and people’s lives would be badly disrupted. Maintenance works would also be stalled,” it said.

With the built environment industry consisting of more than 18,000 firms and hiring tens of thousands of Singaporeans, jobs could be at stake if the sector is further impacted. When workers leave Singapore, new workers are needed to take their places in order for projects to be completed.

“While we need to maintain tight border control measures to protect Singaporeans, we urge the Government to adopt a balanced approach and work with industry to allow the recruitment and inflow of foreign manpower. We are prepared to work with the relevant agencies and stakeholders to establish a viable end-to-end system to bring in migrant workers in a safe and controlled manner so as to enable work to continue, while keeping Singaporeans safe,” said the committee.

“The industry also hopes that the Government will consider additional relief measures to help all stakeholders in the built environment sector to cope with the increased challenges as a result of the tightened border measures.”

The industry is committed to accelerating the adoption of labour-efficient construction methods such as prefabrication initiatives, embracing technology to achieve higher productivity and redesigning processes and upskilling the workforce to create good jobs for Singaporeans, it added.

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