ST Forumer: Influx of foreign engineers depresses wages making engineering less promising for SGs

A member of the public Liu Fook Thim wrote a letter to ST Forum today, lamenting why Singaporean students do not want to take up engineering these days (‘Obvious why engineering not popular‘, 15 Oct).

Mr Liu noted in the papers that DPM Heng Swee Keat was at the 53rd annual dinner of Institution of Engineers (IES) last week, extolling the virtues of engineers. At the dinner, he said that engineers will play key role in future economy.

“Unfortunately, Singaporeans today shun engineering as a career and an engineering degree is no longer as sought after as those of medicine and law,” Mr Liu lamented.

Mr Liu observed that firstly, the engineering fraternity is fragmented, non-inclusive and fails to govern itself. Also, practising engineers in Singapore do not need to register themselves with IES.

“And when engineers get into trouble, as in the case of the Tampines viaduct collapse, IES does not get involved,” Mr Liu added. “Engineers don’t govern themselves, unlike the Singapore Medical Board and the Law Society.”

Next, Mr Liu commented that unlike the medical and law fraternities which restrict foreigners from practising in Singapore, there is no such restriction for engineers.

That is to say, there are more foreign competitions in the field of engineering, with many employers preferring to hire foreign engineer.

Mr Liu said, “As a result, local engineers who go through years of Singapore’s world-class education system and graduate from Nanyang Technological University, one of the top engineering universities in Asia, struggle to find jobs while employers prefer to hire an engineering graduate from a foreign university.”

Indeed, the influx of foreign engineers further depresses the salary of engineers, making engineering even less promising for Singaporean locals.

“As a result of the influx of foreign engineers, the wages for engineers have been suppressed because these foreign engineers are willing to accept lower pay,” Mr Liu observed.

“Unless these issues are addressed, Singaporeans will continue to shun an engineering career no matter what the virtues of engineers are.”

And to add insults, Singaporeans who have to serve NS and go for ICTs are seen as less desirable to be employed due to disruptions to a company’s operation.

In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) some years back, nearly half (42.1%) of employed Singaporean NSmen believe that employers tend to prefer to hire people who do not have NS commitments.

IPS research fellow Leong Chan-Hoong remarked that it could be because some industries need more responsiveness and dedication on the part of their employees.