By now you’d be familiar with the back and forth between Worker’s Party MP and Chief Pritam Singh and Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing in Parliament on Monday (6 Jan) about the breakdown of employment data in Singapore, with Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat chiming yesterday (10 Jan) with his own two cents.
Basically, Mr Singh 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.
In response, Mr Chan merely stated that local employment has increased by nearly 60,000 between 2015 and 2018.
This back and forth continued with Mr Singh asking multiple times for a breakdown, for example how many Singaporeans accounted for the increase in local employment compared to PRs. And Mr Chan continuing to reply that the government has already provided the data.
Mr Chan also questioned the point behind Mr Singh’s questions. He 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.”
Mr 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.”
Following this exchange in Parliament, Mr Singh took to his Facebook page to reiterate his points, noting that WP MPs will file questions to seek this data that Mr Chan says he will get.
Later, Mr Chee chimed in to back Mr Chan’s stance, saying that distinguishing between PR and citizens will “drive a wedge” in society and cautioned against it.
Netizens call for data to be released
Netizens, however, are having none of it.
On Mothership.sg’s Facebook post (7 Jan) which features a video of the parliamentary exchange between Mr Chan and Mr Singh, the comments were mostly members of the public calling out the minister for obfuscating and asking where the data is.
Many wondered what the government was hiding, pointing out that data is just data and it should not be so difficult for the government to release pertinent information when requested. One person compared it to ‘pulling teeth’.
Others highlighted that it’s a simple question and that the government should practice transparency.
There were netizens who flipped the question around and asked what was the point of not sharing the data…
… while other’s pointed out that Singaporeans are interested in the data as well as it will act as evidence to Mr Chan’s statement that citizens have benefitted from government employment policies.
One person even pointed out that maybe the data is presented in a certain angle to paint a specific story that fits the government’s narrative while another said that maybe the numbers are not ‘rosy’ which is why the government is reluctant to release the data.