While speaking at a ministerial forum with students from the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) on Wednesday evening (4 September), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong answered several questions from the audience, video of which were uploaded into a playlist on the Prime Minister’s Office Youtube Channel.
On the question of how Singaporeans are to compete with their Asian counterparts for jobs, PM Lee said, “I think that we have to be hungry too because if we are not hungry, somebody will steal our lunch.”
He noted that the inflow of talent and people from other countries is managed in Singapore, pointing out that the government carefully tracks the numbers, standards and proportions of foreign talent in the country to ensure that Singaporeans are not crowded out.
However, he does caution that employers will not come to look for workers in Singapore if Singaporeans are not up to scratch, adding that the jobs will “go to the places where the talent and the enterprise and the hardworking people are.”
Even so, PM Lee noted that companies do come to Singapore in search of trained employees, such as the company he mentioned in his National Day Rally speech, Finish oil company Neste which came to Singapore because “we have the best workforce in the world”.
He clarified, “Doesn’t mean every worker is the best in the world. But most of the workers are hardworking and good and collectively we work together and therefore the workforce is productive.”
He then lamented that the low birth rate in Singapore is why the country needs foreign talent.
“There are not enough Singaporeans. Every year there are fewer numbers entering the workforce because the numbers getting born are too few. And so if we don’t top ourselves up with talent from overseas…I don’t think we will be able to take up all the opportunities which are available to us,” he said.
The video ends with PM Lee saying, “But we open the door, they come, they compete with us. We have to work hard, yes. But we work hard, we hold our own.”