As the debate about the number of foreigners in Singapore continues to take centre stage, it has now been reported that Singaporeans only occupied 43 per cent of the senior management positions in the entire banking sector. In other words, foreigners hold the other 57 per cent which means that out of 10 senior bankers in Singapore, one would expect 6 to be foreigners.
This is despite the fact that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is insisting that it is working with financial institutions to develop a strong local leadership pipeline and that the industry is making progress.
To be fair, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having foreigners in our banking sector. As a globalised country, we should be welcoming those with unique contributions to make to our country. The issue of foreigners only becomes an issue if they are taking up jobs that locals are equally qualified to do at the expense of that local not having employment.
Looking at trends, we do seem to be reaching that point and therein lies the concern that as the number of foreign PMETs increase in Singapore, there appears to be a somewhat corresponding increase in local PMET unemployment.
Using the government’s own rationale, foreign talent should complement local talent. Yet, are we currently in a situation where foreigners are not complementing locals, but in actuality, replacing them?
Looking at the percentage of board members in Temasek Holdings and now at the figures released by MAS, can the authorities categorically say that all of the foreigners in those positions are fulfilling roles that locals are not equipped to take up?
Can it really be that locals are so ill equipped that they cannot fulfil the majority of top roles in such sectors? If so, is there something wrong with our education system that we are producing people who are not equipped to meet our country’s economic needs? Is there a training gap? And if so, why so? Surely, the Government with all its highly hailed foresight should have been able to predict the economic trends that affect our country and prepare locals accordingly?
Instead of reviewing policies periodically, has the use of foreigners become a short term and lazy way to plug the gaps?
In looking at the issue of foreigners in Singapore, it is too simplistic to be binary. Not all high level jobs can be done by locals. Foreigners are also needed to reflect Singapore’s position in the world as an international city. The question therefore is – have we reached a bottle neck point where foreigners are simply hired without much thought being given into whether or not such foreign hires have been hired at the expense of a local with the same skill sets?
Looking at the figures, we might have well reached the point.
Either the Government has not set out an education system that meets our country’s employment needs or it is using foreigners as a lazy way to plug the employment gap. Neither is particularly reassuring.