Monday, May 28, 2012

It's A Fine Mess

Way back in December 2009, many Singaporeans who were retrenched during the global financial crisis were still unable to find a job commensurate with their experience and qualifications. NTUC promised to tackle the "under-employment" issue which was common among older Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMETs). Halimah Yacob, Deputy Secretary-General, NTUC, said then, “He may be very qualified, very skilled, but the jobs that he wants to do and is willing to do is not available. He ends up doing a job that does not make full capacity, productive use of his capabilities. It also involves the case where jobs are not paying them the kind of salary or earning that they feel is commensurate with their qualifications and skills.” They are obviously still working on the problem.

Once upon a time, only highly qualified expatriates or blue collar workers with specialist trades are granted permits to work in Singapore. Operating under the radar, the liberalised foreign intake policy has flooded the Singapore labor market with foreign PMETs, some with shady paper credentials, leading to intense competition with locals for jobs which otherwise would have been available to them. The threat was no longer the lowly road sweeper or the traditional shipyard worker. The gamut runs from IT engineers, service technicians, supermarket supervisors, front desk personnel, bank officers to physiotherapists in the healthcare sector. The excuse used to be the need to fuel the economy, now the slant is on the declining birthrate. Guess what - the foreigners ain't producing any more babies than the locals.

Whether it is the TFR or the silver tsunami, the planners seem to ignore the tinderbox that is the volatile mix of an economically insecure population and the ad hoc infusion of outsiders, especially those flaunting obscene wealth of doubtful origins. One writer has stated that the "anxiety over having too many foreigners needs to be genuinely respected, and addressed sensitively and holistically." The failure to do so will erode the trust between the people and government. Unlike a city hotel that may rent its rooms by the hour, a country worth defending has an innate DNA crying out for enhancing the well-being of its occupiers (called citizens) and nurturing a liveable and inclusive, not polarised, society. It would be sad day when the outflow matches, or even exceed, the influx of human traffic. How many of your neighbors' kids are opting to study overseas, with or without the justification that they could not secure a place in the local universities? Those who cannot afford this costly opt out alternative will add to the simmering disgruntled. The threshold of pain is sorely tested over the surge in foreign workers, soaring housing and transport costs and stagnant salaries for low-wage earners. In the grand scheme of things, Hougang was just a speeding fine.


  1. DPM has said Hougang is not representative of Singapore. So you have it, the speeding fine is likely to be ignored. Meanwhile, the PAP will continue to pull a fast one with its "inclusiive society" slogan. The only thing new about the "new normal" is the word "new", everything else is normal.

  2. Many foreign "professioners" have dubious qualifications or just attended some crash course before taking up easy cheap employment opportunities here. Of course locals will be priced out, with NS obligations not helping. the MIWs knows this is happening, are they doing anything about it? Just don't express disappointment when election results shows.

  3. Houggang is generally not representative of Singapore. Its demographics are different and it is a predominantly opposition based supporters, not even opposition but Low Thia Kiang based supporters.

    LTK apparently forgot to thank his fellow opposition members who graciously did not participate to avoid 3 corner fights which would proabably reduce the % garnered in this BE.

    1. LTK has said so when nomination results were announced.

      You however, have apparently forgotten that 40% of the last GE2011 voters did vote for PAP. Are you going to claim they are not representative of Singapore too?

    2. correction - should be "...didn't vote for PAP."

    3. Actually, let me make a bold projection.
      In another decade's time, 50% (the other 2.5m) of the residents will say any elections is not a reflection of ALL Singapore residents. And thus, they will all start to demand a vote and for their voices to be heard. They should just convert SG back into the old hey days when this is just a trading hub. It belongs to no -one , just a tax-haven and working places for the modern coolies, ruled by few power elite instead of the old colonialists.

  4. A country that refused to 'close the inequality gap' is one that refused equality.

    I bet it is not the burning ambition of PM Lee or DPM Tharman to make sure that Eduardo Saverin or Jennie Chua or Jim Rogers or Koh Beng Seng of the likes earn less money.

  5. It is ridiculous to find foreigners in every occupation. I have not seen one country with such a phenomenon. Yes, we need foreign talents but this ought to be managed. Coporations must fill such jobs from Singaporeans first before importing foreigners. Sasdly this was not done during the past years. You cay foul and the government allows you to take in the cheap labour. Is there any consultation with the people? Is NTUC aware that many Singaporeans lost their jobs because of cheap labour? I bet they do.

  6. The problems proliferate due to ubiquity. If the employers know that the firm down the street has the same hiring practices, there's no place to go. Everyone routinely benchmark against each other (on the next cheap labor or foreign PMETs) to know what their latitude is, and you make sure you aren't left behind. The results - a discriminated singaporean workforce and citizens.

    If a country as large as Australia can feel the heat and rightly putting in the measures to ensure local employment, you wonder why a small country like SG wouldn't?

  7. Singaporeans are mostly of the conservative type. They don't change much. Since Hougang has been under opposition for 21 years, if WP doesn't make very serious mistake, voters there are unlikely to kick out WP. Unlike in Potong Pasir, voters there felt Chiam See Tong was insulting them by throwing in a very weak candidate.

    The results don't really change much about the overall voting pattern as reflected in the Presidential Election - core PAP votes around 30-33%, core opposition voters around 25% and the remainder are the swinging votes.

    The issue of foreign PMETs grabbing jobs from local PMETs is not new and has already happened for quite a few years. Yet the pain suffered seems to be not intensive enough to swing more votes to the opposition camp. You will be surprised, a lot of Singaporeans are still very ignorant about the sufferings of fellow citizens and choose to believe all those PAP lies.

    I'm one of those suffering PMETs; I can only say I'm in a disguised unemployment situation. Not out of the woods!

  8. Notes,
    You are a very prolific writer; keep up the fantastic job!

  9. Just keep voting Opposition;
    consistently & loyally;
    The deaf frogs will eventually understand the problem.

    Our votes.
    The only effective feedback mechanism that is understood by our Pro Alien Millionaires in Parliament.

    Your Opposition vote is more effective when you also persuade a friend/relative to vote Opposition.