Saturday, 23 September 2023

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How many non-citizen workers? Will we ever know?


Leong Sze Hian
I refer to the articles “Govt working with banks to develop ‘S’porean core’” (Today, Jun 17) and “‘Crucial that S’pore core can land top banking jobs’” (Straits Times, Jun 17).

Screenshot of Today’s Article

“Active discussion” over a year?

The former states that “Acknowledging that some financial institutions, particularly the foreign banks, have to do more to develop a “Singaporean core”, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday that the Government has been holding an “active discussion” for over a year with these institutions to improve the situation.

“Very responsive and positive”?

Noting that they have been “very responsive and positive” to the Government’s call, Mr Tharman stressed that it was “not just a numbers game”.

Pointing out that, overall, Singaporeans “still hold a very large majority of professional jobs” in the financial sector, Mr Tharman said: “There has to be real opportunities … real training and exposure given to Singaporeans so that they can take up positions as their career progresses.”

Mr Tharman, who is also the Finance Minister, said that the Monetary Authority of Singapore is in “constant discussion” with the banks on the issue, while both he and Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin have been talking directly to the lenders’ chief executive officers.”

GP lesson in logical and critical thinking?

Now, lets say you are students in a GP class, and after your GP teacher gives you the above, she ask “What questions do you have after reading this? What would you like to ask to get a better understanding and picture of what’s going on?”

Well, I think after some poking and plodding – some students may start talking along these lines :

How come “boh” statistics?

Teacher, if they have “been holding  an “active discussion” for over a year with these institutions to improve the situation”, wouldn’t the obvious question to ask be what is the outcome and how much has the situation improved? What was the situation a year ago and what is the situation now?

In order words, how have the statistics on Singaporean workers in the financial sector improved in the year? What percentage of all jobs, senior high-pay jobs, PMET jobs, lower-pay jobs, new hires, etc went to Singaporeans (now compared to a year ago)?

By the way, coincidentally, the above was said during a dialogue with students (ha ha).

Talk in “riddles”?

I don’t know about you, but I find it rather strange that often when it comes to the statistics, they often tend to be spoken in “riddles” form.

For example, in the subject matter, the article referenced above said “overall, Singaporeans “still hold a very large majority of professional jobs” in the financial sector”. So, what exactly does “very large majority” mean? 60% 70%? What about the top jobs (the headline of the latter article referenced above), PMET jobs, total jobs, new hires, retrenchments – still “very large majority”?

Why can’t we just say simply, X per cent are Singaporeans?

Since ““very responsive and positive” – how come no statistics to support hah?

Actually ““not just a numbers game” may be an understatement, because there were no numbers given at all! Who’s playing “a numbers game”?

Can employ 100% non-Singaporeans?

Under the current foreign workers’ rules, a firm can employ 100% non-Singaporeans. For example, 55% PRs, 20% S-pass, 20% employment pass  and  5% work permit.

When will we ever know?

And its not just the non-Singaporean workers’ statistics that we can’t get – others like the local universities’ total enrolment of non-Singaporeans, casino entry statistics of Singaporeans , etc, are still a mystery despite questions in Parliament that got replies, but not the answers to the questions.

If his statistics were obtained from the MOM, then we may have a problem. Because, they don’t breakdown the employment statistics into Singaporeans and PRs. Foreign university interns and foreign spouses on long-term visit pass plus are also not counted in the employment statistics, as I understand it.

Sometimes breakdown, sometimes don’t? (system breakdown is it?)

You see (actually you don’t see because they don’t breakdown), trying to figure out the non-Singaporean worker statistics is kind of challenging in Singapore, because some statistics have breakdown, but some don’t.

For example, after people were asking for many years, the unemployment statistics started having Singaporeans and PRs breakdown about 2 years ago, but there is still no breakdown for the total employment, employment change, etc, statistics.

Sometimes give total, sometimes give change?

The other problem is that sometimes, you get the change in the total, and sometimes you get the number of new  passes, etc.

Let me try to explain this with an example (because can be quite mind boggling). Let’s say the total number of PR workers increase by 30,000 in a year. But that may only be half the story, because 25,000 PRs may have become citizens in the year, so actually the increase in totality may be 55,000.

But, this may still be just three-quarters of the story now, because 10,000 PRs may have left in the year. So, the new PRs granted may actually have been 40,000, and not just the 30,000 increase.

Utterly confused?

If you are confused – it can get even more confusing. Because, sometimes the Singaporeans only statistics are given, most notably when the Budget is being delivered. Sometimes can, sometimes cannot.

One of the most incredulous replies in Parliament about a decade ago, was that the data collected did not distinquish between PRs and Singaporeans or something. However, we can now see the statistics going all the way back in history for more than 10 years on the broken-down unemployment statistics (pejia lobang?).


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