“Foreign workers help create good jobs for S’poreans: PM”


Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the reports “Foreign workers help create good jobs for S’poreans: PM” (Straits Times, 22 April) and “Foreign workers help to create more good jobs for Singaporeans: PM”.

The former states that:

“In his speech, Mr Lee [Hsien Loong] noted that six in 10 of the employees are ‘Singaporeans and permanent residents’. Singapore residents also take up two-thirds of the managerial and professional positions…”

Given the remarks at the end of the report – that the “Government’s foreign worker policy could emerge as a hot-button issue this election as some believe that it has hurt residents’ job prospects and depressed wages” –  I find it somewhat strange that even at this eleventh hour before the elections, the Prime Minister is still using “Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs)” statistics.

How many Singaporeans?

The statement – “six in 10 of the employees are ‘Singaporeans and permanent residents’ – could mean just one Singaporean and five PRs.

As to “Singapore residents also take up two-thirds of the managerial and professional positions”, this could also be one-third Singaporeans and one-third PRs.

Also, according to the CNA report, since in “the technician and manufacturing jobs, two-thirds are foreign workers”, it could mean that as little as one per cent of the one-third are Singaporeans and the balance 99 per cent of the one-third PRs

Meaningless statistics?

So, the bottom line is that the PM’s statistics may not tell us much about jobs for Singaporeans, because of the 1,200 workers, 480 are foreigners, and as many as 716 could be PRs, with just one Singaporean manager, one Singaporean professional, one Singaporean technician and one Singaporean in a manufacturing job.

So, the $64,000 question may be – how many are Singaporeans?

To illustrate the frivolity of the data, if half the locals are PRs, it may mean that only 30 per cent of the total work force are Singaporeans, with one-third of the managers and professional positions and one-sixth of the technicians and manufacturing jobs being Singaporeans, respectively.

Surely, the data breaking down the locals into Singaporeans and PRs is available, as it is only 1,200 people who are all employed in just one company.

FM can, but PM can’t?

If the Finance Minister can present ‘Singaporean only’ workers’ incomes and ‘Singaporean only’ households incomes in the Budget statement in Parliament, albeit that it was one of the very rare occasions that “Singaporean only” statistics  were disclosed, why is it that the PM can’t now?

Well, your guess is as good as mine!

Employers can hire 100 per cent foreigners?

Under the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) employment policies, an employer may be able to hire entirely non-Singaporeans, because under the foreign worker quota rules, a company can have unlimited employment of permanent residents and employment pass holders, up to 25 per cent of S-pass workers and 50 per cent of Malaysian work permit holders in certain sectors like the services sector. For non-Malaysian work permit holders like those from China or India, the quota is much lower at generally 10 per cent.

To illustrate the above with some examples :–

–          a company can have 100 per cent PRs,

–          100 per cent employment pass holders,

–          100 per cent mixture of PRs and employment pass,

–          50 per cent PRs and employment pass, with 25 per cent S-pass, 15 per cent Malaysian work permit holders and 10 per cent China/India work permit holders, etc,

–          as well as an unlimited number of foreign university interns on typically six-months stay in Singapore, who do not need to be subject to any of the foreign worker quotas.

“Commentary and opinions are a dime a dozen – let the statistics do the talking!”

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