Singaporeans mainly unconcerned with foreign workers, poll shows

[SINGAPORE] A majority of Singaporeans aren't concerned about the presence of foreigners in the city-state even as job losses mount amid the fallout from Covid-19, a government poll showed.

Most were either neutral or positive about people from other countries, according to the poll of more than 3,100 randomly selected citizens. Almost half didn't mention any issues that bothered them about foreigners, while more than a fifth were worried about competition in the labor market, according to government feedback unit Reach, which conducted the poll.

The city is facing the worst recession in its history and alongside soaring unemployment has come a spike in online rhetoric against overseas workers, who are seen by some Singaporeans as taking jobs from locals. Opposition parties, some of whose candidates advocated tighter employment rules for some categories of foreigners, won more seats in Parliament in July's election.

The government has in recent weeks taken more steps to promote the hiring of Singaporeans and tightened its framework for issuing employment passes for those from abroad.

"Respondents who were unemployed were more likely to feel negative towards foreigners," Reach said in a statement. "Singaporeans generally agreed with the importance of remaining open to foreigners." A telephone portion of the poll was conducted Aug 11-21 with 2,100 people, and an online version was carried out from Aug 21-24 with 1,050 people. The participants were Singaporean citizens age 15 and above, and were randomly selected. Non-citizens will be invited to take part in a similar survey from Oct 12 to Nov 6, according to a separate government statement on Friday.

Singapore's total population dropped for the first time in 17 years as the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic saw fewer people from overseas working in the city-state.

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