On 2 April 2011, Channel NewsAsia (CNA) aired ‘A Political Forum on Singapore’s Future’, featuring Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Member of Parliament (MP) Josephine Teo representing the People’s Action Party (PAP), Gerald Giam for the Worker’s Party, Lina Chiam for the Singapore People’s Party, Vincent Wijeysingha for the Singapore Democratic Party and Mr Mohamed Nazem Suki for the Singapore Democratic Alliance.

During the forum, issues such as employment, cost of living, the influx of foreign talent, housing and GST were raised.

In this article, Leong Sze Hian examines the statements and statistics put forward by the ruling party.


“80 per cent of PMET jobs go to Singaporeans”

What is the source of this statistic? To the best of my knowledge, no Ministry of Manpower (MOM) report or media report has ever disclosed this data. So, is the speaker privy to data that no one is aware of?

If so, then, it obviously raises serious issues of transparency and accountability – why is it that only when there is a political debate on TV does such data become available?

By the way, is the 80 per cent in reference to all PMETs currently employed?  What about PMETs who are unemployed? What about PMETs who are undergoing training because they can’t find a job, who are not counted as unemployed? What about the new PMET jobs created that went to Singaporeans – 80 per cent.

Also, since labour data is always not broken-down into Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs), does the 80 per cent refer to locals or Singaporeans?


“Our unemployment rate today is 2.1 per cent”

This is the overall unemployment rate, including foreigners. The unemployment rate for locals is 3.1 per cent. No one knows what the unemployment rate is for Singaporeans.

Quotas for foreign workers?

“Quotas to employing foreigners”

The quotas only apply to work permits. 25 per cent of a company’s total work force can be S-Pass, while there is no quota for employment passes, i.e 100 per cent of the work force can be EPs.

And of course, there is no quota for PRs. So the entire work force can be PRs.

A total of 115,900 jobs were created in Singapore for the whole of last year. Local employment grew by 56,200.

Actually, as foreign employment grew by 59,700, it means that the rate of change of growth in foreign employment over the previous year’s minus 4,200, was about four times more than that for locals over the previous year’s 41,800.

This is despite the consistent rhetoric that the influx of foreign workers will be curtailed.

Also, since the data for locals is not broken down into Singaporeans and PRs, how many of the jobs created actually went to Singaporeans?

As of December 2010, there were 1,992,700 locals in employment, forming around two in three of the 3,105,900 persons employed in Singapore. The remaining 1,113,200 were foreigners.

If say 20 per cent of the locals are PRs, then about 49 per cent or one in two workers in Singapore are foreigners. This I believe is the highest ever for the ratio of foreign workers to Singaporeans.

So much for quotas!

Longest working hours in the world?

“High quality of life”

Singaporeans have the longest working hours in the world, beating the South Koreans who previously held the top position.

According to the Singapore Census of Population 2010, 228,856 workers worked between 50 – 54 hours, 73,761 between 55 – 59 hours, 134,716 between 60 – 64 hours, and 142,551 65 hours and over.

This means that 579,884 persons worked at least 50 hours, which is about 31 per cent of all workers in Singapore.

4,709 aged 65 and above worked 65 hours and over, 2,609 worked 60 – 64 hours, 1,931 worked 55 – 59 hours, and 3,553 worked 50 – 54 hours.

4,023 persons worked 40 – 44 hours, 1,688 worked 45 –49 hours, 1,329 worked 50 – 54 hours, 849 worked 55 – 59 hours, 1,095 worked 60 – 64 hours, and 2,289 worked 65 hours & over – all of these people for less than S$500.


“Median wage increase in Singapore”

According to the Report on Labour Force in Singapore 2010, the real median gross monthly income from work rose by only 0.5 per cent last year.

In the light of Singapore’s record GDP growth of 14.5 per cent last year, this increase is very small indeed.

As the median income was S$2,000 in 2000, after adjusting for inflation to the median income of S$2,500 in 2010, does it mean that the real income growth over the last decade or so was only just over one per cent per annum?


The rich person pays more GST as they consume more goods and services”

GST is a regressive tax as the poor pay more, as a percentage of their income, than the rich. So, it hurts the lower-income more, on a relative basis to higher income earners.


“High percentage of home ownership”

85 per cent of the bottom 20 per cent own their homes”

Why are there no regular statistics of how many HDB loan and HDB bank loans are in arrears over three months, HDB bank loan foreclosures, etc?

I estimate loans in arrears to be about 38,000 and about 60 foreclosures a month. What price have Singaporeans paid for this highest percentage of home ownership in the world – how many have lost their homes, CPF, been made bankrupt?

“People are paying only 23 per cent for their mortgage”

This is the now infamous HDB statistic, which only captures data of those who currently have mortgages. Those who can’t afford won’t buy, and those who can’t afford would have given up their flats. So, thoe who still have mortgages surely must be able to afford to pay!

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