Holdings

Holdings

The Singapore Government has been very concerned over the heavy dependence of the construction sector on unskilled foreign workers. This sector has suffered from low or negative productivity growth over the last five years. It was felt that the continued reliance on unskilled foreign workers would hinder upgrading of the construction industry. The Ministry of Manpower had announced a number of measures aimed at reducing the demand for foreign construction workers. One of the measures that had been planned and would be introduced by the Ministry of National Development was the legislation of buildable designs and the encouragement of the use of more efficient methods of construction. Another measure was the introduction of a new work permit allocation system where work permit entitlements are given to main contractors. The third measure was the adjustments of levy for foreign workers in the construction sector to moderate rising demand.

Since 1 April 1998, the monthly levy for unskilled foreign workers in the construction sector had been raised from $440 to $470, whilst that for skilled foreign workers had been reduced from $200 to $100. The revision in policy was made to encourage the employment of skilled foreign workers while moderating the demand for unskilled foreign workers. The reduction in levy for skilled foreign workers was also to encourage employers to recruit and retain skilled foreign workers.

A further measure aimed at improving the productivity level of the construction industry was the implementation in August 1998 of the basic skills requirement for construction workers. In this scheme, it was announced that contractors applying for foreign workers would have to bring in at least 20% foreign workers who have attended the basic skills training course.

The Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB), in its effort to raise the productivity levels of the construction industry, has encouraged contractors to set up training and testing centres in the source countries where the foreign workers are recruited. Arrangements would then be made by CIDB to send their testers to conduct the relevant trade tests (SEC) and basic skills test (BSC) to certify the skills of the workers at the overseas test centres. Workers who pass the trade tests and basic skills test would be issued CIDB trade and basic skills certificates respectively. The trade certificates would be recognised by the Singapore Government for entitlement of low levy for skilled foreign workers while the basic skills certificates would be deemed to satisfy the requirement for basic skills training for foreign workers. In this way, workers would be trained and certified prior to arriving in Singapore, hence reducing the man-hours lost in providing on-the-job training and eliminating the need of sending them for skills certification at the Construction Industry Training Institute.