Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-jin penned a blogpost in the Manpower blog in which he sought to explain to the Singapore public the recent trends in foreign workforce numbers. He said that many businesses have told him that his ministry, by tightening work passes for foreigners, was “unreasonably making it difficult for businesses”. However, he pointed out that the numbers still show an increasing number of foreigners with work passes, although there has been some slowing down compared to the first half of 2011.

He wrote:

Our WP stock [excluding foreign domestic workers (FDWs)] grew by 20,600 in the first half of 2012. Much of the inflow in the past few months was due to foreign construction workers. HDB, for example, will need about 30,000 construction workers to meet this year’s building programme. The cumulative requirement of construction workers could rise to 50,000 within the next few years.

The most useful part of his blogpost however, were the numbers he provided for different categories of work passes over a five year period. His numbers are reproduced in the first table below. The numbers in the second and third table are derived from the first table to make it easier for readers in future.

For each December total (June in the case of 2012), the percentage split by work pass type is shown in the next table:

The percentage change in  numbers from one year to the next is given in the table below:

Minister Tan’s blogpost was probably in response to comments generated by the release of Population in Brief 2012, by the National Population and Talent Division. Page 2 of this publication gave the numbers of foreigners (“Non-residents”) in context of overall Singapore population, as at end June 2012.

This was followed on page 5 by an infographic that showed a breakdown of the non-resident population.  However, the numbers suggested by the pie chart do not coincide with the numbers provided by Minister Tan. For example, the pie chart shows that as at end-June, 80% of the non-resident population of 1.494 million held work passes. This would mean 1.195 million.

Yet, the figures provided by Mr Tan, also as of end-June,  said there were 1.234 million holders of work passes.