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A crowd in Singapore (Photo by pzAxe/Shutterstock.com)

Foreign Talent gives his take on why Singapore needs foreigners to take up local jobs

Responding to a question posted on Quora, a foreign talent currently working in Singapore said that one of the many reasons foreign talents are hired in favour of locals is due to the fact that foreign talents are more qualified and experienced, at least in the IT industry.

To give you some context, the question posed was: Why does Singapore require so much “foreign talent” when Singaporeans are so educated and smart? Why does Singapore keep “importing” foreigners to do their work when they can get locals to do it?

The author of the response noted that there are a few reasons why there is a trend of hiring foreign talent, one of which is the level of experience and expertise that foreign talents offer. “One reason could be that most of those FTs seem to have worked in more than a few companies back in their home countries - just a matter of exposure.”

He also noted that the Singaporeans he’s met were well-educated and smart but were also “more ambitious & entrepreneurial” and didn’t settle for a standard 9-5 job. He pointed out that those who do take up jobs in companies in Singapore tend to work in ‘non-regulated’ work environments with low pay, demanding work hours, and often have to work overtime with no pay. The author wrote, “that would be considered inhumane in most other countries. I wouldn’t be surprised if they flip out tomorrow and decide to move to another country.”

On top of that, the anonymous author pointed out that foreign talents don’t have to worry about long-term issues like buying a house – something the author points out as ‘a nightmare’ and only available to the ‘exorbitantly rich’. For a foreigner, they can simply work in Singapore for a few year and thrive on their salary without worrying about maintaining a long term sustainable lifestyle on the island. But for locals, “many times they're offered a position with a salary that seems great in their local currency but is actually very low for Singapore living standards”.

That’s another reason for the trend – not that foreign talents are more likely to be hired but that local talents simply don’t want these lower paying jobs because they aren’t financial viable. “There are positions in my own company that have been vacant since months because of lack of applications from locals,” says the author who works in a specialised field of medicine.

Finally, the other reason the author provided but did not elaborate on much is the fact that foreign employers and managers have a propensity to hire their own countrymen – not necessarily driven by any nefarious reasons but simply out of comfort and familiarity. Drawing from personal experience, the author says “In my field where there are next to none locals, we still see Chinese hiring Chinese, Indians hiring Indians or Koreans hiring other Koreans. But I guess this isn't a problem that is only specific to Singapore; everywhere it's the same.”

While this may be true to some extent, it isn't always the case. Take for an example, a Singaporean managing director was charged by the Ministry of Manpower in 2016, for collecting kickbacks amounting to S105,235 for the continued employment of 20 foreign workers by the company he works for. And we can assume this is just one of many other cases which have been brought to public's attention through prosecution by MOM.

The author then sums up the problem by saying, “the question isn’t really about evaluating calibre of locals vs. FTs. The problem is getting the locals to fill the positions. There are some jobs locals do not want to take up, there are positions which do not bode well financially if you’re a Singaporean, there are better opportunities elsewhere, there are places where an FT has better relevant skills than local applicants and there are places where the hiring manager would rather see his own countryman than others even if it is unfair.”