To stay competitive, Singapore must be open to global talent

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SINGAPORE – Singapore’s financial sector is creating more jobs than local workers can fill, and city-states will lose their competitiveness and growth will be sub-par if they are not open to global talent, the central bank chief said on Thursday.

Uncertainty during the Covid-19 epidemic has exacerbated employment concerns among locals, with foreign labor at the financial center a long-running hot button problem.

Ravi Menon, managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, said: “A ‘Singaporean’ approach would be fatal for Singapore as a global financial hub because there are not enough locals to meet the growing expertise of financial institutions.” A forum central bank is also the financial regulator of Singapore.

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Menon’s remarks come at a time when Singapore is adopting stricter visa and employment restrictions, to allay local concerns about snatching high-paying jobs from foreign workers.

The ruling People’s Action Party has registered the worst turnout since independence in the 2020 general election, and is trying to balance local frustration with Singapore’s attractiveness and job competition as a global business hub.

The move to tighten foreign recruitment rules also comes at a time when Singapore is expected to leave Hong Kong, the region’s other major financial center, to attract more expatriate professionals due to political uncertainty and stricter COVID-19 lockdowns.

But the number of foreign employment pass holders dropped to 161,700 last year, the lowest in at least a decade.

According to official figures, less than 30% of Singapore’s 5.45 million people are non-residents, up from about 10% in 1990. (Edited by Chen Davin’s Reporting Ed Davis in Singapore)

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