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NSP responds to Gan Kim Yong’s remarks on manpower policies

Press release by the National Solidarity Party (NSP).

Response to "NSP’s white-collar job idea won’t work: Gan” in the Straits Times, 23 April 2011

Singapore

23 April 2011

I refer to the article “NSP’s white-collar job idea won’t work: Gan” in the Straits Times, 23 Apr 2011.

Responding to our proposal to increase the Employment Pass (EP) threshold salary to $4000 from the current $2800, Mr Gan said that “many better educated Singaporeans, especially at the higher-income level, are in jobs that don’t face local competition, but competition with companies and enterprises around the world.”  He seemed to be confused.  It is the companies that face competition with other companies around the world, not the jobs themselves.  Whether Singaporeans face local or global competition in employment is determined purely by our manpower policies on foreign employees.  I shall presume he meant the companies.

Our  proposal to increase the EP threshold affects jobs paying between $2800 to $4000.  It ensures that 75% of the jobs at these salary levels go to Singaporeans.  The Minister implied that by doing so, the competitiveness of the companies would be compromised.  Why would he think that?  Is he implying that Singaporeans are unable to do these jobs as well as foreigners?  If so, he should have a good chat with the Minister for Education.   If it is a matter of not enough Singaporeans wanting to fill those jobs, then we have provided for a higher quota upon application and assessment.   Foreign talents would not be affected since they would presumably be paid above $4000.

Mr Gan reiterated the stand of using training to enhance earnings.  We have had training for blue and white collar workers for many years but have not seen any improvements in our national wage levels.  If we are wrong about this, we would love to see statistics on the number of people trained under the various approved training programmes over the last 10 years, the amount of money spent, and how all their wages have progressed over the past 10 years, not just anecdotes of success cases.

It is our view that the incentives for productivity-enhancement would have limited success and the tightening of EP requirements does not go far enough.  We disagree that our current approach is “comprehensive”, nor is it “more effective”, as stated by Mr Gan.

The pain felt by many Singaporeans is real, and should be taken more seriously.  We cannot hide behind an unemployment rate of 2.2% and adamantly overlook underemployment.  With little social safety net in place, most Singaporeans would be forced to take up any job just to pay bills.  The so-called “full employment” situation could actually be the result of the cost pressures we are facing.  We need to look further into the situation and not be blinded by one single piece of statistics. Only then could we have a truly “comprehensive” approach. The NSP regrets that it is currently unable to do more than raise the issue due to a lack of publicly available data as well as a lack of resources to launch further, comprehensive studies to investigate the extent and severity of the underemployment situation.

Sincerely,

Hazel Poa

CEC member, Spokesperson,

National Solidarity Party