ANOTHER business association in Singapore has joined the chorus of complaints about proposals to further restrict the inflow of foreign workers.

The Singapore International Chamber of Commerce (SICC) said yesterday that economic growth is not a 'zero sum game' and that with the imminent shortage of manpower, Singaporeans will actually benefit from letting in more foreigners.

'While we understand the 'foreign talent' sensitivities among Singaporeans, the economy needs to be viewed as an ecosystem', the chamber said in a statement.

'It is not a zero-sum game that pits MNCs against SMEs, or locals against foreigners,' it added, referring to multinational companies and small and medium-sized enterprises.

Rather than taking jobs away from locals, multinationals and SMEs can work together 'to create a multiplier effect in the local economy through job creation', said the chamber, whose members include a significant number of large multinationals.

SMEs hire the bulk of Singapore's workforce- about two-thirds- but many depend on MNCs as their major clients.

The SICC's statement is the latest protest from Singapore's business community, not just against the plans in the White Paper on Population to slash workforce growth by half, but also against the proposals by the Workers' Party (WP) to completely freeze foreign workforce growth till 2020 while expanding the resident workforce. The Singapore Business Federation had, on Tuesday, called the WP's plans 'disastrous' for Singapore's economy and competitiveness.

In adding its voice to those of other business groups, the SICC warned that the tight labour market is already causing wages and, in turn, business costs to rise.

This could jeopardise Singapore's position as a regional business hub, it said.

With local workers in short supply and the economy near full employment, hiring remains a challenge across both traditional sectors such as hospitality and retail, as well as new ones including biotechnology and energy, it added.

Earlier this week, nine national chambers of commerce in Singapore wrote a letter to Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin protesting against the tighter curbs on foreign labour proposed in the White Paper.

The letter was made public by the Australian chamber on behalf of the others, which included the American and British chambers.

These three national chambers also reported this week that some of their member companies had either moved out of Singapore as a result of the labour restrictions, or were planning to do so.