LABOUR MP Yeo Guat Kwang yesterday renewed a call to make skills certification a requirement when renewing work permits even as the foreign labour tap is being tightened.

He urged the Manpower Ministry to seriously consider implementing skills certification and skills upgrading as a criterion for work pass renewal to raise the quality of foreign workers here.

Speaking at the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) annual Deepavali celebration yesterday, Mr Yeo said having skilled foreign workers is one way to solve the manpower squeeze faced by companies.

Mr Yeo, who spoke in his capacity as MWC chairman, said: "The sad thing now I see is that many of the employers still go for headcount. What we really want is foreign talent to help us meet the shortage... It's not a numbers game."

While skilled foreign staff may cost more, they would deliver higher productivity and ultimately reduce costs, he said.

This emphasis on quality will ensure a more level playing field for Singaporeans and reduce "unfair competition" from cheaper foreign labour, he added.

Mr Yeo also urged employers to consider the foreign spouses of Singaporeans as an alternative source of foreign manpower. He noted that foreign spouses who have been here on a long-term social visit pass for more than a year will have a concession from the foreign worker levy.

He called for the authorities to provide this group of foreign spouses with better support for skills training.

"They give birth to Singaporean children and they are with Singaporeans. It's better to tap on this group than foreigners from other countries," he said.

Yesterday, more than 3,000 migrant workers turned up at the event held at an open field next to Northumberland Road.