Photo: Ministry of Communication

Can’t unemployed or underemployed S’poreans take up jobs done by any of 372,100 foreign PMETs here?

Last week, ST reader Tan Soon Hock wrote to ST Forum asking if the government schemes are enough to help Singaporeans with their employment ('Are schemes enough to help S'poreans with employment?', 21 Jun).

Mr Tan was concerned when he read the MOM report that the unemployment rate for Singaporeans is currently at 3 per cent but when permanent residents were also counted, the figure drops to 2.8 per cent.

"It seems that the unemployment rate among PRs is lower than among citizens," Mr Tan observed. "Why is this so?"

He then went on to ask how are the government schemes like the Fair Consideration Framework, SkillsFuture training courses and job fairs helping Singaporeans.

"How effective are these in helping Singaporeans secure employment?" he asked.

372,100 foreign PMETs currently working in Singapore

But he also noticed MOM statistics showing that at the end of last year, there were 372,100 foreign PMETs holding the Employment Pass and S Pass working in Singapore.

And there were also 30,700 foreign holders of other work passes, which comprise Letters of Consent, Training Work Permits and Training Employment Passes, he added.

"One cannot help but notice the exponential rate of increase of other work pass holders - up from 9,300 in December 2012," he quipped.

Note that Letters of Consent are actually a form of Employment Pass allowing the spouse of an Employment Pass holder to work in Singapore too. In other countries like in the US, spouse of a person on H1B visa (equivalent to Singapore's EP) is not allowed to work. But the Singapore government, on the other hand, has been quite kind to even the spouses of foreigners, allowing them to work here.

In any case, Mr Tan posed an interesting question - can't those jobs from foreigners on "other work pass" be taken over by those unemployed Singaporeans?

He asked, "Singaporeans are continuously told of the need to upgrade and upskill for the future. Can't they take up the jobs covered under the other work passes? What more must we do to help Singaporeans secure employment?"

In this regard, perhaps the question should be expanded to ask - can't those unemployed or underemployed Singaporeans, especially those Singaporean PMETs driving Grab currently, take up the jobs done by any of the 372,100 foreign PMETs?