Yesterday in Parliament (6 Jan), Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing cross swords with WP MP Pritam Singh over breakdown of employment data of Singapore.
Pritam has earlier tabled a parliamentary question asking for the number of jobs created in each of the sectors covered under the Government’s Industry Transformation Maps and broken down according to Singaporean, permanent resident (PR) and foreigner groupings.
Chan told the House that local employment increased by nearly 60,000 between 2015 and 2018.
Following Chan’s speech, Pritam repeatedly asked for the the breakdown of employment data.
Addressing the House, Pritam said, “My original parliamentary question really was a question seeking data. Minister for Trade and Industry spoke of the local PMET share going up (from) 54 per cent to 57 per cent. And my question really is can we expect in future — either by way of (response to) a parliamentary question or by the Government on its own accord — (to be given data broken down) into Singaporeans and PRs? If the Government’s approach is, ‘No we are not going to provide that data’, can the Minister please share that detail with us here. Because it’s pointless for us to keep asking for that data if the Government is not going to provide it.”
Chan then replied, “I don’t think we have anything to hide. We have just shared the data.”
Pritam then asked, “If that is the case, then for (the increase of 60,000 in local employment between 2015 and 2018)… How many were for Singaporeans and how many went to PRs?”
Pritam posed this question because the government would frequently lump data concerning Singaporeans and PRs together and put them under a “local” grouping.
Chan said, “We can get you the numbers. But let me say this: What is the point behind the question? First, has local unemployment increased with all these efforts?”
“The answer is a resounding ‘no’. Our people are getting good jobs. Are our wages going up? Yes, and it’s faster than many other countries. Those are proof points to show that we are doing right by Singaporeans. But I’m always very cautious about this constant divide — Singaporean versus PR. The insinuation seems to be that somehow Singaporeans are not benefiting.”
Chan probably also thought that retrenched Singaporean PMETs who later became Grab drivers, insurance or housing brokers are considered “employed” with good jobs.
Chan continued, “I’ve just spent the last half an hour explaining and sharing with this House how we are working hard to make sure Singaporeans do so.”
“It’s not the data — it is the point of (Mr Singh’s) question. And I would like to remind this House: The ultimate competition is not pitting Singaporeans against the PRs, it is about the team Singapore comprising Singaporeans, the PRs and even the foreign workforce… competing to give Singaporeans the best chance possible. How many increase in the (number of) jobs go to Singaporeans? Enough for us to keep unemployment rate at the level which many countries would say it’s ‘friction’ — and that is how we’ve done it.”
Chan: I got your backs
While giving his speech, Chan said fondly how the government would always have Singaporeans’ back. “We will walk this journey together with you. This Government will always have your back,” he said.
He said the purpose of bringing in foreign workers with the right types of skills is to benefit Singaporeans. “The Government is on the side of Singaporeans. We will grow our economy and attract investments to create more good jobs for Singaporeans,” he added.
He asked if Singapore should reject investments that would bring in more foreigners, “Should we reject investments like Google, Grab and Facebook?”
Singapore must strive for what he called the “Goldilocks balance” in hiring foreigners. “We cannot open the floodgates and drown Singaporeans. But neither can we close our borders and reject foreigners in our workforce.”
“Above all, we must firmly reject efforts to stoke anti-foreigner sentiments by spreading falsehoods or creating invidious comparisons out of context. That is not the kind of politics we want,” said Chan.