Why was problem of unmotivated Singaporean PMEs not discussed for 15 years?

By Chua Suntong

I refer to the article “Onus on workers to prove hunger for jobs” by Ms Janice Heng (Singapolitics 6 July 2013, Sunday Times 7 July 2013)


Ms Heng referred to public unhappiness that some bosses might prefer foreign professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) to Singaporean ones. She asked whether Singaporeans were not hired for these PME positions because they were not hungry enough for these jobs.

This unhappiness originated in the 1998 Foreign Workpass System in the hiring of Non-resident Employment Pass Foreign PMEs were (& still is) not subjected to any significant restrictions. This was to make it easy for bosses to hire foreigners to take up local PME positions.

Since 1998, Members of Parliament consistently raised concerns over Singaporeans being marginalized in PME position hiring. They called for more clarity in Employment Pass Criteria. However, the Government was reluctant to adjust to a more selective system.  It was only during the February 2013 Budget Statement that the Government considered this a priority.

From 1998 to 2013, the Government & employers avoided discussion on Employment Pass hiring criteria. The Government was probably confident there were enough PME jobs for all suitable applicants. There was also no mention of Singaporean PMEs being of poor quality.

However, after the Government wanted to reduce Employment Pass Holder numbers, various reasons suddenly surfaced about the apparent non-suitability of Singaporean PMEs for a wide range of positions.

If Singaporean PMEs were not hired because they were not self-motivated, why was this not discussed for 15 years between September 1998 & July 2013?

(This letter was rejected by ST Forum for publication)

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