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The paper provides
understanding of managers’ rationales and constraints when hiring foreign
workers in the manufacturing and manufacturing related services sectors in
Singapore. Using purposive and quota sampling methods, the study covers
in-depth interviews with 25 managers from multinational companies from
Singapore’s five leading industries, in the manufacturing sector and
manufacturing related services sector. Analysing qualitative data from the
structuration perspective show that managers’ choices are shaped by the
changing foreign labour policy that limit the hiring of foreign workers from
specific countries according to different levels of skills. Reasons for hiring
unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled foreign workers vary which ranging from
‘blended low labour cost’ to shortage of domestic labour, right attitude to work, skill mismatch
of domestic labour, high salary demands by domestic labour, accreditation and
innovation capability, and relevant knowledge, skills and language proficiency.
As the dependency ratio for foreign workers continue to narrow, in the near
future, managers would have to search for limited skilled workers within the Singapore’s
domestic labour market. The post-pandemic Covid-19 crisis would disrupt the future
demand for unskilled foreign workers as the adoption of automation would
increase and managers would have to readapt to the new economic scenario.