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Singapore needs 100,000 foreign workers this year

Singapore, fresh from announcing record economic growth, said it must bring in more workers from abroad to help keep inflation low, apparently backsliding on a commitment to stem an influx of foreigners.

business Updated: Jul 15, 2010 22:28 IST

Singapore, fresh from announcing record economic growth, said it must bring in more workers from abroad to help keep inflation low, apparently backsliding on a commitment to stem an influx of foreigners.

The government plans to allow more than 100,000 foreign workers into the city-state this year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said during a trip this week to the US "If we don't allow the foreign workers in, you are going to have overheating" of the economy, Lee said in a Straits Times article posted Thursday on the prime minister's website. "We have to accept that."

The government said on Wednesday that gross domestic product (GDP) soared 19.3 per cent in the second quarter, the fastest growth since the government began releasing quarterly GDP figures in 1975. Singapore expects the economy to grow up to 15 per cent this year.

The government had pledged to stem the inflow of foreigners as part of a policy shift toward boosting growth through higher productivity.

Singapore's decades-long boom, which has made it one of the world's wealthiest countries, has been fuelled in part by foreign labourers who are willing to do jobs in areas such as construction and hospitality for lower wages than locals.

Singapore also tries to attract what is known locally as "foreign talent" — educated professionals from abroad to work in the finance industry and other high-paying sectors. About 150,000 foreign workers have entered Singapore per year since 2007, and they now comprise about a third of the island's 3 million work force and about a fourth of the total population of 5 million.

Singapore is seeking to diversify its economy away from manufacturing toward tourism, and foreign workers are playing a key role in building and staffing projects such as casino resorts, which generally attract record visitors.