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SG PMETs continue to be in dire straits in their own country

By Richard Wan

In a Parliamentary sitting in March 2013, it was revealed that DPM Tharman and then Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin met with senior management of financial institutions on a number of occasions to emphasize that they should make more concerted effort to develop a local talent pipeline and a Singaporean core.

Speaking in Parliament at the time, Mr Tan revealed that there had been unhealthy FT enclaves emerging in the financial industry and job discrimination against Singaporeans.

He said [Link], "We have heard anecdotes of how in certain cases, heads of business units or HR managers have a preference for candidates they are familiar with or of the same nationality, for reasons that are irrelevant to job performance and irrespective of whether they are more competent than other candidates."

"We have also heard of situations where Singaporeans were retrenched or made to resign in the name of down-sizing, only to realise later that their positions were given to foreigners, who were coincidentally from the same countries as the business heads."

"Let me be quite blunt. Would these practices not sound discriminatory? Would any respectable progressive company endorse these practices? If this hiring is indeed because they care only about choosing familiar candidates and not about hiring the 'best man for the job', then such practices have no place in Singapore’s workplaces. Discrimination will not and cannot be tolerated."

"One CEO we met told us that it was simply more convenient for him to mount an overseas recruitment exercise in a particular country to get all the skilled manpower he needs, than to invest in a detailed and time-consuming recruitment search for potential candidates within the local job market," he added.

Mr Tan then went on to describe his visits to some of the financial institutions in Singapore with DPM Tharman.

"DPM Tharman and I have met up with the senior management of a number of financial institutions on a few occasions to stress the point that financial industry players should make a more concerted effort to develop a local talent pipeline. These sessions have been productive and useful," he said.

"The management have been quite honest to reflect that they will be more mindful of the need to ensure that discriminatory hiring practices are not entrenched in their industry. Some were quite candid – they honestly said they recognised that they had not paid enough attention to how hiring was done and that unhealthy enclaves had been formed. Others acknowledged that they would need to be conscious of diversity and clustering in their make-up."

Since then the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) has been implemented which requires employers to consider Singaporeans "fairly" for all job opportunities before hiring foreigners on Employment Pass (EP). It was a result from the feedback received through MOM's "Our Singapore Conversation" sessions, employer groups and key stakeholders such as the NTUC [Link].

S'poreans continue to be discriminated three years on

Three years have gone past since discriminatory hiring practices against Singaporeans were mentioned in Parliament. What is happening now?

Judging from an NTUC press statement yesterday (25 Feb) [Link], it appears that Singaporean PMETs continue to be discriminated in their own country.

NTUC has now called for the Government to review the criteria for Employment Passes, and differentiate companies that show a commitment to hiring Singaporeans from those that do not.

"This is to ensure our workers have fair opportunities at their workplaces. At the same time, the Government should tighten enforcement on companies that show no intent to develop a Singaporean core of workers," NTUC said.

This review should meet "the variegated needs of the industries whilst incentivising industries towards building a strong Singaporean Core", NTUC added.

NTUC must have made such proposals after observing that there are still companies who do not show any “intent to develop a Singaporean core of workers”. In other words, Singaporean workers continue to be discriminated in these companies.

NTUC highlighted these points as part of its recommendations for Budget 2016. Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat is expected to present the Government Budget next month.

A respected retired old PMET told the author that Singaporean PMETs have much stacked against them in the employment market, as a consequence of "flawed policies the last decade".

He noted, "Employers don't have to pay CPF contributions to foreign PMETs on SP and EP. This is a big factor and makes it real cheap (for employers) to hire foreign PMETs."

He also suggested not to pay retrenched foreign PMETs any severance package but make it compulsory to pay Singaporean PMETs a heavy severance package equivalent to 2-3 years of the person's annual pay.

"Plus pay in lieu of notice and pro-rated accrued leave pay," he added.

"This will make it compelling for companies to let go foreign PMETs first (in the case of retrenchments) to save on big severance cost... talking cock and singing songs will not cut it."

Do you agree with what this old retired PMET has proposed?