A local employer has shared his experiences with Singaporean hires, explaining why companies may end up hiring foreigners even if they had originally wanted to support local. Delane Lim provided seven examples of job seekers who appeared picky, unmotivated with seeming bad attitudes towards a job with a reasonable salary of circa $3,000 per month plus 14 days annual leave.
Reading the examples cited by Lim, his frustration is understandable. Yet, is it the full picture of why companies are hiring foreigners over locals? Without casting aspersions on Lim’s unpleasant experiences, his examples provide only one small piece of the puzzle.
As Singaporeans get increasingly concerned about foreigners taking away their jobs, it is easy to pin blame on one specific cause. But in reality, there may well be many contributing factors that have led us to this quandary.
Let’s take several steps back in time.
Before the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with India came about, Singapore already had a pervasively snobbish and misguided attitude towards jobs. There was a rush towards the sciences and other professional careers without importance being placed on equally crucial but less “managerial” jobs.
In part, this was created by the government’s educational system which prioritised the sciences and tried to churn out as many replicas as possible. It was a system that was rigorously harsh. There was no room for difference.
Everyone bought into the idea (which was actively enabled and encouraged by the Government) that to be considered “successful”, one had to have a professional degree and a “managerial post”. Anything else was looked down upon.
While employers are quick to judge on the wage expectation of job seekers. But we have to remind ourselves that Singaporeans priced out from certain professions over a couple of decades due to the liberal foreign labour policy as transitional foreign workers were ok to simply save up and retire back home, which then sets an unhealthy wage norm.
Not to mention the escalating cost of living, lack of a social welfare system that maintains one’s living standard and dignity if one were to be retrenched, or retire without a decent amount of savings.
Take the IT sector for example, it has been highlighted in a 2017 study by US-based software developer mentorship company, Codementor that Singapore is a city to avoid for software developers.
According to the study on the top countries for software developers, it was found that Singapore developers are paid $440.74 on average, leading it to be ranked at the bottom of the top cities list at number 20. Codementor also found that an average Singapore developer earns $47,748 annually after taxes.
Besides income, the cost of living, rent and job openings were factors in ranking the top countries.
If we look at this in perspective, is it really that much of a surprise that Singaporeans seem so “entitled” for a desire to obtain a wage that delivers a quality living and future?
Are we not just products of a narrow minded system?
Unless this snobbish and misguided attitude on the part of society and the Government is dealt with, this cycle will continue. The Government needs to lead by example here. It needs to stop its practice of parachuting civil servants (many of whom may not truly fully understand society) straight into top political positions because this creates a barrier to bringing forth a different perspective. It also perpetuates the snobbery that if you didn’t do well in school at 16, there is no way you can aspire to be a leader in your own right.
Besides, Lim’s grievances only reflect a small slice of the picture. While his pay package is competitive, we do not know if it provides career progression – which is something that Singaporeans who are ambitious will rightly consider.
There is currently some evidence that Singaporeans may be shortchanged in that department. We are also unsure as to what the job scope of Lim’s offering is either and whether or not it is in the PMET sector which is currently facing the biggest squeeze where Ceca is concerned.
At the end of the day, Singapore has had years of cheap foreign labour which has distorted the labour market. There is no simple solution. The Government has to change its policies on multiple levels to be honest with itself. It has to change its attitude and be more open towards different qualifications and talents. It has to ensure that locals with comparative skill sets are not discriminated against.
While Lim’s frustrations are understandable, they are in no way representative of the situation that local PMETs are facing. Seven people out of millions is after all a drop in the ocean.