A slowdown in construction activities and tougher rules on the employment of foreign workers in Singapore have left more than 10,000 job seekers stranded in India and Bangladesh.
Advanced estimates show the construction sector's growth has slowed down to three per cent last year, half from the six per cent in 2013, The Singapore Daily said.
Strict rules on employment of foreign workers have also reduced employment scope of new labourers while companies have opted to retain existing workers and upgrade their skills as a better option. Besides, levy on hiring foreign workers has also been raised under new regulations which aim to have the Singapore companies automate and reduce labour-intensive jobs.
Such changes have left many of the workers stranded in their homes with rising piles of debts.
An average new worker spend about 7,000 Singapore dollars (USD 5,598) to get a job here and 2,000 dollars (USD 1,599) of which is spent on training centres in India and Bangladesh which conduct skill tests under Singapore's Building and Construction Authority (BCA) qualification scheme.
The new worker pays a hefty sum, anything between 5,000 dollars (USD 3,999) and 6,000 dollars (USD 4,798) to employment agent to get a job in Singapore, which on an average earns him 600 dollars (USD 479) per month.
"The demand for new workers used to be so high that employers would have to wait for them to be trained and tested. Now, it is the other way round," David Leong, managing director of recruitment firm, People-WorldWide said.
Two years ago, most foreign workers would have been able to find a job in Singapore's construction sector within weeks, he added.
"We have heard of construction firms which need the manpower but cannot afford to (hire) because of the higher levies for construction workers. Overall, the industry is moving towards retaining existing workers," the daily quoted Andy Goh, chief financial officer at construction company Sysma Holdings, as saying.
Migrant Workers' Centre chairman and a member of parliament, Yeo Guat Kwang said the problem of an excess of trained foreign workers starts as errant foreign employment agents recruit workers without securing jobs for them.
"Source countries share an equal or greater responsibility to enforce against the errant practices taking place in their own countries," the daily quoted Yeo as saying.
Jeyapraesh Pannerselvam, 27, is one among those stranded workers in India, who has been waiting for a Singapore job. He has spent all of his life savings and passed the BCA skill test for which he registered in March last year.
"I have already spent all my life savings to find a job in Singapore. I will wait and I am sure I can get a job," he was quoted as saying by the The Straits Times.