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Singapore must remain open to global talent to stay competitive: Central bank

Ravi Menon, managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, speaking at the Singapore Fintech Festival in November 2016.

Ravi Menon, managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, speaking at the Singapore Fintech Festival in November 2016.

SINGAPORE — Singapore's financial sector is creating more jobs than resident workers can fill and the city-state will lose its competitiveness and growth will be sub-par if it does not stay open to global talent, the head of the central bank said on Thursday.

Foreign labour has long been a hot button issue in the financial hub, with uncertainties during the Covid-19 pandemic further fanning employment worries among residents.

"A 'Singaporeans only' approach will be fatal for Singapore as a global financial centre as there are simply not enough locals to meet the fast-expanding specialist needs of financial institutions," Ravi Menon, managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, told a forum. The central bank is also Singapore's financial regulator.

Menon's comments come at a time when Singapore is adopting stricter visa and hiring restrictions, in bit to allay local concerns about foreign workers snapping up higher paying jobs.

The ruling People's Action Party registered its worst vote share since independence in the 2020 general election, and is walking a tightrope trying to balance Singapore's attractiveness as a global business hub and domestic frustrations over job competition.

The move to tighten foreign hiring rules also comes at a time when Singapore is expected to be able to woo more expatriate professionals leaving the region's other main financial hub Hong Kong due to political uncertainty and after strict Covid-19 lockdowns.

But the number of foreign employment pass holders fell to 161,700 last year, the lowest in at least a decade.

Just under 30 per cent of Singapore's 5.45 million population are non-residents, up from around 10 per cent in 1990, according to government statistics.

(Reporting by Chen Lin in Singapore; Editing by Ed Davies)

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