Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move “That the Bill be read a second time.”
2. Singapore today enjoys strong economic growth accompanied by plentiful new jobs - an all-time high of 176,000 in 2006, of which 90,900 went to locals. The economic prospects continue to look promising. We have a strong investment pipeline with a number of large infrastructural projects being completed over the next few years. Growth is broad-based across all industry sectors, especially finance, info-communications, marine and process industries. An estimated 450,000 jobs will be available in the next 5 years if the economy grows between 4.5% to 6.5% each year. These positive outcomes are a result of confidence in our economic and labour policies which are business-responsive and pro-growth.
3. Together with NTUC and employer organisations, we have established practices for a flexible labour market, which includes the judicious use of foreign labour to meet rapidly changing manpower demands. Our labour policies and harmonious industrial climate have resulted in jobs for all. Our employment rate is already one of the highest in the World - 76% of working-age Singaporeans are in employment. The strong labour market will get even tighter, as our economy grows. The number of workers needed to sustain this economic growth has exceeded the local supply.
4. The ability of our companies to access foreign manpower is a comparative advantage. But our foreign worker policy cannot be based on a laissez-faire approach, which will be detrimental to our overall progress. To protect the well being of foreign workers, we have imposed conditions on employers for their housing, remuneration and medical coverage. We also carefully identify where foreign workers are needed most and allow them into selected industries. We