The Singapore Building and Construction Authority (BCA) aims to slash the number of foreign workers by up to a third by 2020.

In an interview with The Straits Times, before departing from his role as BCA chief executive in June 2017, Dr John Keung said that out of the 300,000 foreign workers currently employed in the construction sector, the number of rank-and-file foreign construction workers may be reduced by 20% to 30%. This is to continue efforts to revamp the sector's workforce in line with a government push for greater productivity.

As of now, about four in 10 rank-and-file workers are qualified as highly skilled workers, and the BCA hopes more of them can be trained such that at least 60% of the workers can possess greater skills.

ALSO READ: General Motors expected to downsize Singapore HQ

Dr Keung said that with better training and new technologies, the industry has raised its productivity over the past three years, citing a jump by 2% from 2014 in terms of site productivity. "We are trying to make the cost of labour as high as possible to make sure the industry has the incentive to substitute manpower with technology," he added.

Additionally, BCA is also looking at tightening the regulatory framework on facade inspection, to ensure that even as Singapore's buildings age, they stay in good shape and are safe for use. “This framework will apply to both public and private buildings to make sure facades are regularly inspected and remain properly secured", Dr Keung said.

Dr Keung will be relinquishing his chief executive post as part of the BCA leadership renewal process. He is stepping into the role of dean of the BCA Academy from Thursday (June 1) , after 11 years at the BCA itself. He believes even higher productivity gains can be achieved in the years to come, a task which CEO-designate Hugh Lim will continue to focus on.

ALSO READ: Credit Suisse to cut Asia jobs

Photo/ 123RF