If the public have misunderstood the implications of Ceca, why is the Government not providing the data to debunk the misconception?

If the public have misunderstood the implications of Ceca, why is the Government not providing the data to debunk the misconception?

The issue about there being too many foreigners in Singapore, taking up jobs (especially in the professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMET) sectors) does not look like it is about to swiftly disappear into the good night.

Singaporeans are beginning to question  (in earnest) if the hiring policies of some companies in Singapore discriminate against locals. To make clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having foreigners work in Singapore. Singapore is after all an immigrant country that values the contributions of foreigners.

Issues only arise if foreigners are being hired over Singaporeans for jobs that Singaporeans with comparable skill sets can perform just as well, leaving the Singaporean unemployed. The question therefore is whether we are now at such a point?

Arguments for the fact that that the balance has tipped in favour of foreigners seem to be convincing given that there appears to be data suggesting that foreign PMET numbers have increased in Singapore which coincided with the number of unemployed Singaporean PMETs increasing.

What has increasing become the focal point of growing discontent relates to the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with India. While Ceca has definitely brought some benefits to the Singaporean economy, one wonders if it might now be time to renegotiate some of its terms especially since the job creation aspect of the agreement looks lopsided?

The Government has been quick to defend CECA, seeking to explain that CECA is not a free pass for all and that all foreign nationals applying for Employment Passes must meet the prevailing criteria. The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) was also quick to point out that all employers must comply with rules on fair hiring.

Despite what the MTI has said, there is a loophole within the prevailing criteria which allows for companies to transfer existing employees from a office in another country without needing to first advertise the job to see if a suitable candidate can be found locally. While there are suggestions for this loophole to be closed, there are concerns that the terms of Ceca would not permit this.

While the MTI has said that “it is misleading to attribute the number of Indian foreign professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), especially intra-corporate transferees, solely or mainly to CECA,” the Government has yet to provide figures on just how many foreign PMEs have managed to secure jobs in Singapore directly because of CECA.

Furthermore, MTI has not provided any information about the number of PMEs from Singapore who are transferred over to India via this option, if not information about how many Singaporeans had utilised the agreement to find a job in India (discounted those who were converted from Indian nationality).

Without a clear comparison of data, it is impossible for citizens to take the Ministries’ words seriously when their real life experience speaks of a different story of being displaced via transfers or other job seekers on passes granted via CECA.

So why is the Government so cagey on the data?

There have always been questions on the numbers. Back in August 2016, then NCMP Leon Perera had asked the then Minister for Manpower what the numbers of intra-company transferees (ICTs) from India that have been approved under the CECA with India from the year when the agreement came into effect to the latest year for which data is available were. In response, the now retired Mr Lim Swee Say had said:

ICTs from any country, including India, would need to meet the Ministry’s work pass qualifying criteria to work in Singapore. The only difference is that ICTs from all countries are exempted from the advertisement requirement in our Jobs Bank. The Ministry does not disclose data on foreign manpower with breakdown by nationality, including data on ICTs.

If the public have misunderstood the implications of Ceca, why not just provide the data to debunk the public?

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