A FLURRY of worried e-mails reached the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Asme) last week, just before lower foreign worker quotas kicked in this Monday.
The firms - restaurants, retailers and cleaning firms - wanted to be exempt from the cut, which applies to the services industry.
But, said Asme president Chan Chong Beng, "I think most of the companies have already known that they must accommodate this".
Since Monday, foreign workers can form no more than 40 per cent of a firm's workforce, down from 45 per cent previously. The move was announced in this year's Budget in February.
The quota cut affects only new hires for now.
Firms cannot hire more foreign workers if that pushes them over the limit. But they can retain existing workers up to the previous limit until July 2015. "You won't see the effects today," said Mr Wei Chan, who runs several food and beverage businesses, but "it will kill" once 2015 arrives.
Companies said they see the move as just another step in the Government's long-running attempt to tighten foreign labour.
"It's an ongoing thing," said Ms Shara Law, assistant HR manager of Pets' Station, which sells supplies for household animals.
The first quota cut was announced last year, reducing the maximum proportion of foreigners from 50 per cent to 45 per cent.
Pets' Station has been at its limit for some years already. So Monday's cut does not affect it now as it was already unable to hire more foreigners.
But whether it will feel the cut in 2015 depends on whether Singaporeans continue to shun frontline jobs. "There are just not a lot of locals in the industry," said Ms Law. "So we're actually still depending a lot on foreigners."