Singapore needs foreign tech talent to stave off crisis, central bank warns

A lack of local skills means Singaporeans make up just a third of the financial sector’s tech workforce

Singapore skyling showing its business district

Singapore must continue to depend on foreign workers to fill roles in its tech sector over the next few years, the head of the country's central bank warned on Tuesday.

Managing director Ravi Menon, who made the remarks during a webinar, said that if the inflow of foreign labour is tightened excessively, “it will impair not just the competitiveness of our financial centre but dampen the prospects for creating good jobs in the future, especially for Singaporeans”.

Of the estimated 25,000 technology workers in Singapore’s financial sector, Menon said that domestic workers make up just over a third of the workforce, as many of the required tech skills are in short supply locally.

“The answer does not lie in restricting the inflow of foreign tech expertise. On the contrary, it is by attracting the best tech talents from around the world that we can anchor new tech capabilities and functions that expand job opportunities for Singaporeans,” he said.

Menon also underlined the need to build a strong local tech talent pipeline in the next few years, something that would involve individual backers, financial institutions, and the government.

He also suggested ways in which individuals can better equip themselves for tech jobs in the financial sector, including securing a degree in a STEM subject. Menon also urged jobseekers to learn fundamental programming skills, as demand is shifting away from traditional IT roles, like project managers, to those in areas like software engineering.

He also urged local talent to engage with tech expertise in countries like India and China, where there are large pools of tech talent to work with and learn from.

Singapore is an emerging tech hub, but tech talent has continued to be in short supply, as reported by The Straits Times. Despite recent government efforts to tighten policies around the hiring of foreigners and curb growing Singaporean unemployment, it has also launched Tech.Pass for 2021, a scheme that aims to attract top-tier foreigners, with 60 applications being successful as of the end of April.

Last week, HPE was awarded a £22 million contract to build a new supercomputer for the National Supercomputing Centre Singapore, which it hopes will be operational in early 2022. The new system is set to be eight times faster than the centre's current system, and will be powered using the HPE Cray Ex supercomputer.

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