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S’poreans and PR job stats – making no sense

Leong Sze Hian /

I refer to the reports of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s speech on 21 April on the launch of IM Flash Singapore, a joint venture memory chip facility between US tech giants Intel and Micron.

The reports cited PM Lee thus:

“In his speech, Mr Lee noted that six in 10 of the employees (in IM Flash) are 'Singaporeans and permanent residents'. Singapore residents also take up two-thirds of the managerial and professional positions, he added.”

I find it somewhat strange that even at the eleventh hour before the elections, the Prime Minister was still using “Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs)” statistics. This is especially curious given 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.”

This brings about some questions, as the numbers quoted are open to interpretation and do not really tell us the full picture. For example, exactly how many Singaporeans work at IM Flash?

Saying that “six in 10 of the employees are “Singaporeans and permanent residents” could mean just one Singaporean and five PRs.

Another example of ambiguous and dubious statistics: "Singapore residents also take up two-thirds of the managerial and professional positions.” This could mean one-third Singaporeans and one-third PRs.

Also, according to the CNA report which said, "In the technician and manufacturing jobs, two-thirds are foreign workers", this could mean that as little as one per cent of the one-third are Singaporeans, and the remaining  99 per cent of the one-third are PRs.

So are these merely meaningless statistics?

The bottom line is that the PM's statistics do not tell us much about jobs for Singaporeans because of the 1,200 workers in IMFlash, 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.

To further 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?

If the Finance Minister can present “Singaporean-only” workers' incomes and “Singaporean-only” households incomes in the Budget statement in Parliament, why is it that the PM is unable to  the same now?

Well, your guess is as good as mine!

Can Singapore employers 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 have hire:

- 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.

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References:

ST Breaking News, Apr 21: http://www.straitstimes.com/GeneralElection/News/Story/STIStory_659474.html

Channel News Asia, Apr 21: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1124072/1/.html