Government now tacitly acknowledges that foreigners do not help create jobs for Singaporeans

Two weeks ago (21 Jun), Singaporean Tan Soon Hock wrote to ST Forum asking what more must the government do to help the unemployed and underemployed Singaporeans secure jobs in their own home country.

Ministry of Manpower official, Terence Ho who is the Divisional Director of Manpower Planning and Policy gave a reply on ST Forum today ('Many measures taken to help the unemployed', 6 Jul).

Ho said that the Adapt & Grow (A&G) initiative helped more than 25,000 locals find jobs last year, compared to about 21,000 in 2016. "Over 480,000 jobseekers made use of online job portal MyCareersFuture," he said. But he didn't breakdown how many of these locals or jobseekers are actually Singaporeans.

He also talked about the government's professional conversion programmes helping 3,800 Singaporean PMETs last year to find jobs. "To complement employment facilitation programmes, we regularly update our foreign workforce policies to moderate the inflow of foreign workers," he added.

"For instance, we recently tightened the qualifying criteria for Employment Pass (EP) and S Pass holders. This resulted in a moderated growth of EP, S Pass and work permit holders from 2015 to last year, compared to the preceding three years."

As a result, nearly eight in 10 PMET jobs created from 2015 to last year went to Singaporeans.

Ho then went on to talk about how effective the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) has been - an initiative to get employers to consider employing Singaporeans first before employing foreigners. He said that about 350 employers are on the FCF watchlist for failure to employ Singaporeans "fairly". As such, their EP applications for foreigners would be scrutinised.

"To date, 1,900 of their EP applications have been withheld, rejected, or withdrawn by the employers. More than 2,200 Singaporean PMETs were hired by such employers," he said.

However, he did not disclose the effectiveness of Jobs Bank, part of the FCF initiative, which many netizens have complained that it is a "wayang". There have been cases where employers have already decided on hiring foreigners but put up the job advertisements in Jobs Bank merely to satisfy MOM requirements. In such cases, all job applications from Singaporeans were duly ignored.

"We remain vigilant about the evolving employment situation, especially where jobs-skills mismatches intensify, and continuously review the effectiveness of our approach," he concluded his letter.

PM Lee: Foreigners help create good jobs for Singaporeans

It is interesting to note that when MOM tightens the qualifying criteria for foreign Employment Pass (EP) and S Pass holders in the last 2-3 years, nearly 8 in 10 PMET jobs created during this period actually went to Singaporeans, as disclosed by Ho.

Back in 2011, despite the many complaints about foreigners displacing Singaporeans in the job market, PM Lee told everyone that foreigners are actually here to create more good jobs for citizens in Singapore.

He rebutted the notion that foreigners are competing with Singaporeans for jobs and cited a wafer fabrication plant as an example. He said that of the 1,200 workers at IM Flash Singapore, six in 10 employees were Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs), and four in 10 were foreigners.

"Without the foreign workers, we would not have attracted this US$3 billion investment, and Intel and Micron would have built its wafer fab elsewhere," he said. "But by allowing in a controlled number of foreign workers, far from disadvantaging Singaporean workers, we have created more good jobs for Singaporeans. For every one foreign worker, we have created 1.5 local jobs in this project."

That may be the case for IM Flash but in the case of the many Indian software companies which set up shop especially at Changi Business Park, they hired mostly Indian nationals, resulting in many local complaints against them.

In any case, new MOM statistics for the last 2-3 years, now show that curtailing foreign workers here does help in creating more job opportunities for Singaporean PMETs. This has completely debunked PM Lee's earlier assertion that foreigners help to create jobs for Singaporeans in Singapore.