The total workforce in Singapore comprises 2.1 million residents (citizens and PRs) and 1.1 million foreigners. Labour economist Hui of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy deduces that the overall jobless rate is about about one third less than the official resident unemployment rate of 3.0% as of June 2011, (i.e. 2%), since all foreigners have jobs. But how did 1/3 of the jobs available in Singapore end up going to foreigners?
Minister of State Tan Chuan-Jin knew the answer in hi sheart when one CEO accused of hiring too many foreigners disclosed his company's workforce figures which, in Tan's own words, "didn't make very good reading" for a company based here."
Yet when Mr Yeap of the Singapore Shell Employees' Union pointed out that Singaporeans were retrenched while foreigners kept their jobs during the downturns of 1986 and 1998, Tan, now sitting on the same side as Lim Swee Say and SNEF president Stephen Lee, challenged Yeap if that was a fact or perception. That sounded awfully like Shanmugam's assault on Pritam Singh's presentation of the unpleasant truth in parliament, tantamount to imputing Yeap "purveys lies and dishonest opinions". It was like Yeap had to "put your hand on your heart and say, this is what I believe in." Yeap didn't blink, "It is a fact, that's why I raised it here."
Labour chief Lim Swee Say didn't exactly help with his warped version of events - that the Job Credit Scheme helped keep jobs, while foreign work passes were allowed to expire without renewal. In other words, foreigners lost jobs, Singaporeans kept their jobs. SNEF's Lee qualified that foreigners on contract were let go, but at least he was honest enough to concede, "This does not mean no Singaporeans were retrenched." So when Tan urged his audience to distinguish perception from reality, maybe he should have commanded Lim Swee Say to stop daydreaming and come down to earth.
Oddly, it is the same Tan who announced the new guidelines purportedly designed to take aim at discriminatory hiring practices such as job advertisements that stipulate foreigners are preferred, and preferential hiring of foreigners over suitably qualified Singaporeans. Which makes one wonder whether the general is acting on inputs of perception or reality, or just engaging in theater. Shanmugam's words come to mind again: "When members speak here, (with) their personal views and their integrity to speak their personal views and speak from their heart, there are no games that need to be played."