The government will continue to monitor closely the overall number of foreign workers here and the impact on the communities that they interact with, said Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin.

The authorities are also looking at ways to enhance the overall management of their well-being, he told Parliament yesterday.

Mr Tan said last month's Little India riot - the worst public order disturbance in the Republic in more than four decades - would not have a material impact on the government's plans to ease the growth of the foreign worker population to more sustainable levels.

He spoke of how there is already a "targeted and adaptive" approach to raise the quality of foreign workers and help businesses reduce their reliance on low-cost foreign labour.

The pace of growth in the foreign worker population has slowed in recent years ever since new measures were introduced to stem the numbers.

As at last November, Singapore had around 1.1 million foreign workers, an increase from 991,600 at end-2011 and 1.09 million at the end of 2012.

Mr Tan added that while many recognised that foreign workers were needed to build public infrastructure such as roads, MRT networks and housing, their growth could not go on unabated.

"We will continue to moderate the growth of foreign workers. As part of our restructuring, we should do more with less," he said in a ministerial statement as he responded to 15 questions by various MPs on foreign worker management.

In his speech, he reiterated that foreign workers have always been part of Singapore's economic landscape as they contribute "significantly" to the progress and well-being of the people.

Turning to how foreign workers are treated here, Mr Tan cited a survey that found that the vast majority are generally happy with their working experience and many want to continue working here.

He also said that foreign workers in Singapore are by and large treated decently by their employers.

"Are all foreign workers poorly treated here? While the situation is generally good, it is not perfect. There is always room for improvement," said the minister.

He warned against generalising that there was "widespread and systemic abuse" of the foreign workforce, or to conclude that these were the reasons for the Little India riot.

"In the same vein, some foreign media just echo these points but offer only scant evidence for their assertions. We don't think there is basis for these assertions, but look forward to the COI's (Committee of Inquiry) perspective on the matter," he said.

The four-member COI, chaired by a former Supreme Court judge, was convened to investigate the cause of the riot and will submit its report by June.

Mr Tan revealed that the government would open more dedicated recreation centres for foreign workers in future, although he did not specify how many would be built or where they would be located. But while these gathering spaces provide alternative options for foreign workers, he said the reality is that they can never completely replace popular spots such as Little India, a place that has evolved to cater to their physical and emotional needs.

"I believe Singaporeans understand and appreciate the need for these shared spaces. Unlike the picture painted by the critics, I also believe that Singaporeans are generally big-hearted and accommodating," said Mr Tan. "On the part of the government, we will manage these areas well so that we can co-exist harmoniously."