SINGAPORE - Besides considering if Singapore has too many foreign workers, it should be examined whether there are enough quality jobs for Singaporean professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).

This was a response by the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Asme) yesterday to the Government's Population White Paper released last week.

Asme said in a statement that going by a survey by recruitment firm Ambition last Thursday, 77.2 per cent of employees here would consider going overseas.

In the the survey, 44.4 per cent said their salaries were not on a par with the market and 49 per cent felt they could earn more in another city.

As for training and staff development, 62.6 per cent of workers did not think their companies were investing enough.

Ambition said the findings suggest that to attract and retain people, government and company policies are an important factor.

Asme urged the Government to give SMEs more incentives to develop and improve their human-resource systems and processes.

The association also questioned whether the public was unhappy with an overabundance of lower-skilled foreign workers, or foreign talent taking jobs away from Singaporean PMETs.

If it was the latter, Asme said "the real problem may be the masses of foreign professionals depressing wages across the board for local PMETs".

It would also mean that the hiring limits for lower-skilled foreign workers "should be re-examined and perhaps relaxed", Asme added.

One grouse SMEs have with tighter controls on foreign hires is that they have since had trouble finding employees.

"If SMEs are unable to function optimally, they will be forced to downsize or shut down, further reducing the number of job positions available to PMETs, perpetuating a vicious circle," said Asme.

The association also said that the slower workforce growth rates from now until 2030 "may not be enough to cover" the expansion needs of some key industries, including the construction sector, that will "need to work overtime" to provide the infrastructure to support the projected growth in population.