During last night’s live General Election debate, candidates from the People’s Action Party (PAP), Progress Singapore party (PSP), Workers’ Party (WP), and Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) had a chance to grill each other on policies and opinions.
In the third segment of the night which involved candidates answering questions from each other, PAP’s Vivian Balakrishnan – who is contesting at Holland-Bukit Timah GRC – asked PSP’s Francis Yuen if he knows that almost 60 per cent of the country’s workforce are PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) – which is also among the largest chunk in the world. Dr Balakrishnan then noted that a higher percentage of the job losses PMETs suffered due to COVID-19 were by foreigners, not locals.
He also pointed out that there are seven locals holding PMET jobs for every foreign employment pass holder. He asked, “What else do you want us to do, to fulfil what you started off with as far as PMETs are concerned?”
Mr Yuen – who is part of the PSP’s Chua Chu Kang GRC team – responded that local PMETs could fill more of those jobs as “logic would tell us”, highlighting that there are still about 400,000 expats working PMET jobs and about 100,000 local PMETs who are unemployed.
He said, “The Government ought to be helping them to do the transition of getting the ‘excess’ PMETs to (be) repatriated, and our own PMETs getting back to the job.”
Mr Yuen went on iterate his party’s suggestion that there should be a limit on the number of employment passes granted, saying, “Granted, we need foreigners to work here, but our position is that we have excessive number of people coming here at the expense of our own local talent.”
Mr Yuen then asked Dr Balakrishnan on the Government’s earlier announcement on the creation of 100,000 jobs. Specifically, he wanted to know what kind of jobs these would be and the time frame of when they would be created.
In response, Dr Balakrishnan said that the opportunities would include attachments and traineeships as well as jobs, which will be created within the next year.
“You talk about lifelong jobs, I’m glad you brought that up. It’s about skills,” he remarked, adding that upskilling is not just for young people, but “people our age, 40 to 60” as well.