Speaking at the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) National Delegates’ Conference yesterday (15 Oct), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the People’s Action Party (PAP) promises to walk with workers “all the way” as industries transform. He said workers will not be left to fend for themselves.
Workers have to be ready for change, and the Government has to help them “to train for new roles, to cope with the rapid changes in their industries and to remain employable”, said PM Lee. “It will not be easy, but rest assured, we will walk with you all the way.”
He noted that in other parts of the world, there has been widespread unhappiness as social compact has been fractured. This has given rise to populist movements which divide societies, he said.
In Hong Kong, underlying factors behind the protests include the sense that serious economic and social concerns have not been addressed. This social division can befall Singapore if it is not careful. “If it happens to us… we will suffer the same consequences as the other countries,” he said. “Only worse, because we are that much more vulnerable.”
He warned that such circumstances would destroy confidence in the country and “Singapore will be finished”.
He then turned to say the “symbiotic relationship” between PAP and NTUC is key to helping Singapore avoid the dire outcomes seen overseas, noting that many of its MPs come from NTUC, and the labour chief sits in the Cabinet.
The PAP Government, he said, will “ensure that no Singaporean, regardless of family background or life circumstances, will ever be shut out from opportunities, or left behind”. Most of all, PAP creates jobs and opportunities for workers, to enable all citizens to improve their lives through their own efforts, he said.
“This is far better than having a populist government that gives vent to the frustrations of the population, or panders to short-term passions at the expense of long-term interests.”
Singaporean workers forced to drive Grab
Despite PM’s promise to walk with workers “all the way” and to create job opportunities for Singaporeans, many displaced Singaporeans end up driving Grab.
Shaun Ow, 39, was working in the private sector for some 11 years in various industries before he was retrenched 4-5 years ago. He then tried to find a job for more than a year before giving up. He ended up driving Grab in order to feed his hungry family.
He told the media that he has been a private hire car driver for the last three-and-a-half years and manages to earn about $5,000 a month after accounting for all the charges. But he has to work very hard, driving everyday for 12 to 14 hours non-stop. On average, he would be making 20 to 25 trips daily and hardly has any time for his family.
Once started driving Grab, Singaporeans like Shawn would have a hard time going back to industries and get a job because their resume will show a gap in their career progression.
Meanwhile, the government continues to issue work passes to foreigners to work in Singapore.
Jobs Bank a “wayang”?
Indeed, many companies are even running rings around the PAP government by abusing the Fair Consideration Framework put up by the Manpower Ministry (MOM).
Part of the framework requires companies to advertise their job vacancies in the national Jobs Bank for 14 days so as to give Singaporeans a chance to apply before they can hire any foreigners for the jobs. However, many companies simply put up their job advertisements on the Jobs Bank just “for show” but end up recruiting foreign workers nevertheless. The companies have no intention to recruit Singaporeans in any case, defeating the purpose of having the Jobs Bank.
A good example can be seen on this thread on expat.com, a popular site for foreigners wanting to get a job in Singapore:-
In March this year, a foreigner, schaw, wrote on the forum asking for advice. After the company put up a job advertisement on the Jobs Bank, it proceeded to apply EP for schaw. But the salary, probably a lower one, was offered to schaw. This resulted in the rejection of his EP by MOM.
Incredibly, according to schaw, MOM asked the company to simply re-post a new job advertisement with the correct salary, the one that was offered to schaw. The foreigner then asked if anyone else had any success upon re-applying EP after a new job advertisement with the correct salary was posted on Jobs Bank:
Schaw also asked if the 2 week period of waiting time was necessary after a job advertisement was posted on Jobs Bank. He said, “Re-posting job ads for 2 weeks is must (sic)?”
Skyline83 replied that the 2 week period is mandatory. And “only after doing so and assuming that no local Singaporean has applied and is qualified can they appeal on your rejected EP application (sic),” he explained.
About one month later, schaw reported that his EP was approved.
Hence, despite PM Lee’s promise to walk with workers “all the way” and to help them “to train for new roles” so as “to cope with the rapid changes in their industries and to remain employable”, more will end up driving Grab as long as PM Lee continues to issue work passes to foreigners.