Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pledged to tighten restrictions on foreign workers, tackling an issue that has stirred anger in the traditionally open city-state as it recovers from a pandemic-induced recession.

In a key policy speech during a national day rally on Sunday night, Lee said his government will further raise the visa criteria for expatriates, increase salaries for low-income laborers and hold companies to account for their hiring practices. Changes to the salary criteria for overseas workers would be done "gradually and progressively” to show that Singapore wants to keep policies outward-looking to accept competition, he added.

"We have to acknowledge the problem, so we can address Singaporeans’ legitimate concerns, and defuse resentments over foreigners,” Lee said. "Only thus can Singapore remain open, and continue to grow and progress,” he added.