This circular migration also makes it hard for Singapore to retain skills and experience, and thus to raise our productivity.
With Covid, circular migration poses a risk of importation of infection. If we demand a quarantine or testing prior to the worker starting his job after arrival, it imposes costs.
We have an opportunity right now to reform the system to serve both the worker’s interest as well as Singapore’s. We need to strongly incentivise re-hiring of migrant workers who are already here but facing redundancy and repatriation, and unless our economy demands it, we need to strongly dis-incentivise importation from abroad.
This way, workers stand a good chance of getting a new job after losing one, thus boosting their career security. Singapore gains through better skills retention.
The Ministry of Manpower has outlined a few measures that point in this direction, but they are relatively minor and limited by too many conditions. We suggest stronger measures such as a levy discount if a worker is rehired from the local pool of foreign workers.