In the recent post general election cabinet reshuffle, Josephine Teo managed to retain her pre general election portfolio as Minister for Manpower. This raised a few eye brows given that she had come under significant fire for allegedly botching up the containment of the coronavirus outbreak among the migrant worker community.
While the blame cannot fall solely on her, it remains a fact that the first public case of migrant workers living in densely packed dormitories catching the coronavirus came to light as early as February with nothing apparently done on the part of the authorities to deal with the situation. It also remains a fact that instead of issuing an apology to acknowledge that the government could have done more, Teo remained defiant – refusing to apologise because no migrant worker had asked for an apology.
That any grown up can give a reason like this is itself already shocking. A minister giving this as an excuse is frankly, unbelievable. Yet, even as cases in Singapore continue to climb, Teo holds on to her job. Where is the public accountability? Is it a case of the establishment closing ranks to protect each other?
Migrant worker issues aside, the second time Minister for Manpower has yet again been criticised for her lack of results in reducing the hires of foreign professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) in Singapore. While the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) was launched in August 2014 as part of the government’s effort to increase the representation of Singaporeans in the workforce, the number of PMETs in Singapore has seemingly continued to rise.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has announced that another 47 employers have been added to the FCF watchlist for suspected discriminatory hiring practices in their workforce profile.
“We will subject their hiring to closer scrutiny to ensure that there is no nationality bias against locals, which is unacceptable and not in line with fair, merit-based hiring,”
It has also been announced that the MOM will further investigate another 240 firms which have been identified through data analytics for possible pre-selection of foreigners or not adhering to the spirit of the job advertising requirement under the FCF.
While this is all well and good, this is not a new problem. Indeed it has been one that has been continuously raised by alternative new sites and alternative politicians alike. Given that the FCF has been around for circa six years, why hasn’t the numbers dropped? Is there a lack of political will?
While the MOM has now said that “these employers will have their Employment Pass (EP) applications closely scrutinised, and those who are recalcitrant or uncooperative will have their work pass privileges cut back,” what is the criteria that the MOM are assessing them on? Shouldn’t there be an objective and transparent criteria to ensure fairness and accountability?
At the end of the day, the number of foreign PMETs in Singapore has not been cut despite the setting up of the FCF and the number of migrant worker COVID-19 cases continue to climb. Both have been overseen by Teo.
Why is she still in charge of the agency that seemingly has not performed under her leadership?