MDA: Send fireman to fight soldier's battle – Older PMETs' woes?

By Leong Sze Hian

MOM to replace MCI?

I refer to the 3 June posting at about 10 pm on the facebook of Talking Point which says that “We’ve just been informed that Cabinet Minister Tan Chuan-Jin will take the place of MDA CEO Koh Lin-Net on Talking Point Tuesday night, 4 June.

Mr Tan joins Prof Arun Mahizhnan from the Institute of Policy Studies and Bertha Henson, editor of The Breakfast Network, to discuss the new licensing rules.”

I don’t know about you, but isn’t it kind of strange to have this “last minute” replacement?

Why send the acting Minister of Manpower and Senior Minister of State for National Development to defend the MDA which is under the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI)?

Why isn’t the MCI Minister or Senior Minister of State (both are also Cabinet Ministers like the acting Manpower Minister), or the Senior Parliamentary Secretary appearing in the programme instead?

I believe the acting Manpower Minister has also never served in Government Parliamentary Committee on Communications and Information.

Does the acting Manpower Minister know something about the MDA licensing regime that the MCI don’t know?


How’s this for accountability?

So, how’s this for accountability – not sending anyone from the Ministry that was responsible for rolling out the subject controversial licensing regime with just 3 days notice, no prior discussion in Parliament, no public consultation, etc.

I understand that even the Deputy Chairman of the  Government Parliamentary Committee on Communications and Information has clarified that the Committee was “briefed” on the new MDA licensing regime, thus implying that the Committee was not consulted? (“MDA Saga: MP Baey indirectly reveals the redundancy of GPCs” TR Emeritus, Jun 3)


Send fireman to fight soldier’s battle?

As an analogy, is it not kind of akin to sending a fireman to fight the soldier’s battle? Well, maybe the “soldiers” may have done such a poor job in the last few days that literally a “fireman” is now needed?


Perhaps fireman should fight his own fire first?

By the way, since the acting Manpower Minister will be appearing, perhaps he can also answer what a lot of Singaporeans may be asking – Why the sudden recent downplay of the merits of a university education? – Is it because of the statistics indicating that the more educated and older one is, the easier it is to lose one’s job and the harder it is to find another suitable one? – Why is it that after so many years of the widespread problems of discrimination against Singaporeans (particularly more educated and older ones) – all that we can say now is that the “Government does not rule out anti-discrimination labour laws” – How many more years must Singaporeans wait for the Government to really do something? – as described in the following analysis on PMET and foreign labour policy issues :-

I refer to the articles “Too many graduates” (TR Emeritus, May 25) and “Workers’ interests always central to labour movement: Swee Say” (Straits Times, May 26).

All of a sudden – so many downplay university degrees?

The former states that “A  number of political leaders have appealed to Singaporeans not to place too much faith on university degrees in an apparent effort to manage public expectations.

Singaporeans, especially parents, who have long regarded the university degree as a key to a good life will likely be shocked.

For decades, the government has been en­couraging youths to study hard or lose out in a competitive world.”

So, why the sudden shift from “upgrade, upgrade” to “university degree is not so important” now?

Like most things, I wondered whether the labour statistics may offer some clues.

So, I looked at the latest Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) Redundancy And Re-Entry Into Employment, 2012 report.

Rise in redundancy

It states that “Reflecting the impact of economic slowdown and restructuring, more workers were laid off in 2012. 11,010 workers were made redundant, up 10% from 9,990 in 2011.1 Amid a rise in employment over the year, the incidence of redundancy increased slightly from 5.5 workers affected per 1,000 employees in 2011 to 5.8 per 1,000 in 2012″

PMETs more vulnerable

“PMETs have become more vulnerable to redundancy, with 7.4 made redundant for every 1,000 PMETs in 2012, up from 5.5 per 1,000 in 2011″

PMETs form majority of workers laid off

” They had higher incidence of redundancy than production & related workers (5.2 per 1,000) and clerical, sales & service workers (3.5 per 1,000). PMETs now formed the slight majority (54% or 5,960) of workers laid off in 2012. This possibly reflects the growing vulnerability of mid-level white-collar workers due to globalisation and technological innovations, which had previously impacted mainly blue-collar manufacturing workers”

Comment: Isn’t the liberal foreign labour policies and huge influx of foreign labour a more obvious reason!

1988 – not desirable to have more than 25% foreign workers?

In this connection, I would like to thank reader ES for sending me a very interesting 1988 newspaper article which said “Not desirable to have foreigners make up more than one-quarter of the workforce, says Govt” (“Move to curb influx of foreign workers”, Straits Times, Nov 17, 1988).

50% non-Singaporean workforce?

Without the breakdown of the resident workforce into Singaporeans and PRs, I estimate the non-Singaporean workforce to be about 50 per cent (estimate of about 38% foreign workers plus about 10% PRs).

Re-entry into employment declined

” After rising in 2011, the rate of re-entry into employment declined slightly in 2012 … Slightly over two-thirds (68%) of residents made redundant in the first three quarters of 2012 re-entered employment by December 2012 (i.e. within 12 months of redundancy), down slightly from 70% in 2011″

Because PMETs prefer to spend more time to look for jobs?

“This partly reflects the increase in layoffs of PMETs, who have below-average re-entry rate (63%), as they face competition from the growing supply of tertiary graduates. Some PMETs could also have savings and prefer to spend more time to look for jobs that match their skill sets, qualifications and salary expectations”

Comment: PMETs prefer to spend more time – is this a joke or what? Probably not very funny if you a jobless PMETs! You may like to read “Job placement rate increase (magically) by 2.7 times?”, Apr 4)

“Residents formed 66.4% of total employment (excluding foreign domestic workers) in December 2012″

Comment: How come there is no breakdown of residents into Singaporeans and PRs, when the unemployment data can give a breakdown?

Redundancy at 3-year high?

The 4Q12 statistics for redundancy, retrenchment and incidence of redundancy are all at 3-plus year highs, compared to 3Q09.

For example, redundancy increased by 51% from 2,220 in 4Q09 to 3,350 in 4Q12.

Redundancy – more locals than foreigners?

Looking at the change (2012 over 2011), there may be a worrying trend that for redundancy, retrenchment and early release of contract workers – they all indicate rising percentage change for residents relative to non-residents – 19.9, 20.7 and 5.1% for residents versus – 3.0, 6.4 and – 23.3% for non-residents.

Lose-lose for Singaporeans in good & bad times?

This may be indeed alarming as I understand that unlike in the past, it appears now that when the economy is booming – foreign workers increase relatively more than locals and when the economy is weakening like now, locals may be losing their jobs relatively more so than foreigners.

I believe in the past, foreigners were losing their jobs more so than locals, when the economy was weakening.

So, it may be like a lose-lose situation for locals, whether the economy is good or bad.

Tighten foreign labour = Singaporeans lose jobs?

The data on reasons for redundancy may debunk the rhetoric that we have been hearing so often that tightening on cheap foreign labour will result in businesses letting go more Singaporean workers due to higher labour costs – because high labour cost was only the fifth ranked reason for redundancy.

In fact, this reason declined from 30.2 in 2011 to 20.3% in 2012.

“The number of private establishments with redundancy increased to 843 in 2012 from 806 in 2011″

“Similar to a year ago, about three in four (75%) were small and medium sized establishments with 25 to 199 employees”

Comment: This may also debunk the rhetoric that tightening foreign labour will result in businesses relocating overseas, because despite increasing foreign worker costs and tightening – those that relocated overseas actually declined.

Older PMETs hardest hit?

For residents made redundant, age 40 – 49 PMETs made up the largest group at 36.5%.

Elderly in low-pay jobs hardest hit?

In contrast, for production and transport operators, cleaners and labourers, the age 50 & over made up the largest group at 43.2%.

This may indicate severe age discrimination.

Degree holders hardest hit?

By educational attainment, degree holders were the worse hit – at a whopping 64.8% for PMETs.

Degree holders were also worse hit for all jobs (not just PMET jobs) – at 44.8%.

PMETs hardest hit?

“The PMET share of residents made redundant has traditionally been lower than the PMET share of the resident workforce. However, in the last five years, their share of local redundancy rose and came close to and exceeded their representation among resident employees, notably in the past two years.

This possibly reflected the growing vulnerability of mid-level white-collar workers due to globalisation and technological innovations, which had previously impacted mainly blue-collar manufacturing workers. Nevertheless, the absolute number of residents laid off from PMET positions was not large at 4,570 in 2012, though it increased from 3,260 in 2011″

Comment: The age old notion that higher education pays and gives better job security and prospects may no longer hold.

Older PMETs hardest hit?

“Residents aged below 30 were less vulnerable to layoffs, forming a disproportionately lower share of the residents laid off relative to their workforce composition. In contrast, residents in their 40s were more vulnerable, reflecting their over- representation in sectors with above-average incidence of redundancy, including manufacturing and wholesale & retail trade. Amid the rise in layoffs from PMETs, degree holders formed a disproportionately higher share of the residents made redundant in 2012 relative to their workforce composition. Conversely, lower-educated residents were less vulnerable to layoffs, reflecting the strong demand for low- and mid-level workers in 2012″

Retrenched twice?

“Only a small minority of workers experienced repeated redundancy in 2012. As at December 2012, 0.9% of residents made redundant in 2011 were laid-off again after securing a new job, though up from the preceding cohort of 0.3%. On average (mean), these workers were laid off 12 months after they re-entered employment, down from 14 months for the previous cohort”

Re-entry into employment declined

“On average, the re-entry rate (within six months of redundancy) was 55% in 2012, slightly lower than the 57% in 2011″

Re-entry for older PMETs hardest hit?

“The decline in re-entry into employment in 2012 was felt primarily by residents displaced from PMET positions, whose rate continued to lag those displaced from non-PMET jobs. Similarly, degree holders, as well as those in their 40s also saw notable declines in re-entry rates over the year. They continued to have below-average re-entry rates, along with those aged 50 & over.

More lower pay jobs available?

On the other hand, clerical, sales & service workers and those with below secondary education saw improvement in re-entry rates. This reflected the strong demand for service & sales workers in 2012″

Comment: Do the above data indicate increasing under-employment – PMETs taking lower pay service and sales workers’ jobs?

Foreign labour policies, anti-discrimination laws?

To what extent has our liberal foreign labour policies and the lack of anti-discrimination laws (“Govt to look into foreign managers’ hiring practice”, My Paper, May 21) contributed to the plight of older higher educated Singaporean workers?

So many labour MPs?

Given that we seem to have so many labour issues that are adversely impacting the lives of Singaporeans, perhaps having 14  PAP candidates (16 if you count 2 more who previously had worked in NTUC) at the last General Election in 2011, is still not enough, since the 2 losing candidates have already left NTUC for the private sector? (“Labour MPs — Time for PAP to relook strategy? – MPs, analysts divided over practice of parachuting prospective candidates into NTUC after departure of losing candidates Ong and Choo from the labour movement”, Today, May 27)