By Leong Sze Hian
It has been reported that voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) are looking to recruit social workers from Hong Kong and Taiwan as Singapore look to develop professionals to meet the increasing needs of the sector.
14% of Health Ministry’s social workers are foreigners?
In the report by Channel News Asia on 28th March, it is revealed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) that 14 per cent of its 390 medical social workers (as of December 2013) are foreigners who are either from Hong Kong, Taiwan or Malaysia.
However if we include permanent residents (PRs) – what percentage of medical social workers in the Health Ministry are non-Singaporeans?
In this connection, as there were an estimated 451,934 new citizens and new PRs granted from 2007 to 2013 – so how many of the Singaporean medical social workers in the Health Ministry are new citizens.
Ministry accompanies mission overseas to recruit foreigners?
In the report by CNA, it is also said that VWOs have been looking overseas to hire social workers.
Representatives from four VWOs, including Lakeside Family Services and Fei Yue Community Services, went to Hong Kong in late March to source for potential candidates.
Officials from the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) and Social and Family Development Ministry accompanied the team in the search for the candidates.
NCSS was reported to have said it sent representatives from its career centre at the Social Service Institute to facilitate the recruitment and to give prospective candidates a better overview of Singapore’s social service landscape.
How many Singaporeans can’t get a job?
I know of a Singaporean who graduated last year from one of the local universities with a degree in the social sciences with honours – who is still unable to find a permanent job after about 9 months.
As I understand that there are about 90,000 unemployed and long-term unemployed locals, more than 200,000 who have indicated that they would like to return to the workforce, tens if not hundreds of thousands of under-employed (getting much lower pay than their last drawn pay), etc
I find it rather sad that media stories seem to continue to be abound that employers can not find Singaporeans to work, and thus have to resort to even a mission to a foreign country supported by a Ministry, national institutions, etc – to recruit foreigners.
“Very sad” statistics.
In view of the above, is it any wonder that –

  • The real growth in university graduates’ starting pay has been negative in the last 7 years
  • There were 207,100 residents earning below $1,000, 416,900 below $1,500 and 627,800 below $2,000.

Since the total workforce was 2,004,600, it means that for about 1 in 10 earn below $1,000, 1 in 5 earn below $1,500 and 3 in 10 earn below $2,000.

  • The real median income change from 2008 to 2013 was only 1.0 per cent per annum.
  • For the 20th percentile – the real change per annum for the last 10 years was only 0.3 per cent.

According to the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) web site, the real annual total wage change (excluding employer CPF) from 2008 to 2012, was -2.4, -1.0, 2.7, 0.1 and -0.8, respectively.
This works out to a cumulative real decrease in wage change of about -1.5% or -0.29 per annum, from 2008 to 2012. A negative real total wage change last 5 years.
Singaporeans first?
And for the same period of time,  there were 1,067,100 economically inactive residents.
Why is it that the MOH cannot choose to engage this group of economically inactive residents to fill up the positions needed for medical social workers without first turning to foreigners for a quick fix solution to the manpower shortage issue?
With initiatives to educate and employ them to promote a Singaporean centric public service, and developing the talent pool locally at the same time.
Or has ministries like MOH given up hope on locals?
With all the consistent rhetoric in recent years about having “Singaporeans first” policies and curtailing the influx of foreign workers – should not government agencies like the Health Ministry be setting the example in hiring Singaporeans?
Are there any countries in the world whereby government agencies hire so many non-citizens?
I would like to suggest that all the government agencies disclose the percentage of their workforce that are non-citizens – like what the Health Ministry has now done for medical social workers.
Uniquely Singapore!

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