Data from Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower shows that the number of expat, white-collar workers, in the city state is the lowest it’s been in a decade. The number of Employment Pass holders, a work permit issued to foreign professionals earning at least S$4,500 (over 110,000 Thai baht) a month, fell 9% to 161,700 in the year ended December 2021. This is the lowest since 2010, when the number was 143,300.
The data suggests that Singapore is not yet reaping the benefits of the exodus of expats from Hong Kong, although this could change when the city-state fully re-opens its borders while Hong Kong continues to enforce harsh restrictions.
According to a Bloomberg report, Singapore has always been a popular destination for expats, thanks to low taxes and its role as a regional hub for many industries. However, the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic sparked concern among struggling locals that foreigners were taking the best jobs. The Singaporean government responded by making it more difficult for businesses to hire overseas workers. Such measures, coupled with Covid travel restrictions, led to a steady drop in expat numbers over the last 2 years.
According to the data, the exodus is not just among white-collar workers, with the number of foreign labourers and technicians also dropping. This has had a knock-on effect, such as long delays to housing projects and other construction work. In 2019, Singapore had 1.43 million foreign workers, but by the end of 2021, that number had dropped to 1.2 million.
The government has pledged to address the shortage of foreign workers in the coming months, with the number of blue-collar work permit holders increasing by over 15,000 in the last 6 months of 2021.
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