September 3, 2020, 07.07 PM

SINGAPORE, KOMPAS.com – Talks involving foreign workers in Singapore have returned to the spotlight as the city-state faces a decades-high unemployment rate from the pandemic.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stressed the importance for the Southeast Asian country to remain open to overseas talent amid tighter immigration curbs.

The Singaporean Prime Minister warned that greater protectionism would be a blow for Singapore as a global business hub that is facing a record recession.

The Singaporean government has spent S$100 billion ($73.47 billion) in support measures to minimize the harsh impact of the coronavirus pandemic on its open economy.

Read also: Indonesia's Business Chamber Urges Faster Rollout of Economic Stimulus Programs

Worries over jobs have turned the focus on its high immigration levels, an issue emphasized by opposition parties during a July general election in which they mounted a historic challenge to the ruling party's unbroken hold on power.

"Even as we adjust our work pass policies, we must be careful not to give the wrong impression that we are now closing up and no longer welcoming foreigners," Lee Hsien Loong said in a near two-hour impassioned speech in parliament.

"We may be under stress now, but we cannot afford to turn inwards."

Lee's government, which has been tightening the inflow of foreigners for several years, is taking more steps to promote local hiring.

Read also: Covid-19 Crisis Takes a Toll on Mental Health of Singapore’s Migrant Workers

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