In Parliament yesterday (1 Sep), Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung insisted that Singaporeans are not getting short-changed of senior roles in the banking sector. He added that there are ongoing efforts to create opportunities for locals.
He also warned Singaporeans against adopting an “us versus them” mentality towards foreigners, which he said could affect Singapore’s standing as a financial centre.
“We have seen how toxic the discussion can become in other countries, and how it can change the course of history. This is not a discourse Singaporeans deserve, nor do I think this is what most Singaporeans want,” said Ong.
“The more widely held view, I think, understands the international character of our financial centre, but wants to see Singaporeans do better, with greater assurance of fair hiring practices that put us on a level playing field. These are valid concerns.”
He said that the largest chunk of jobs did go to Singaporeans.
Concerns of foreigners dominating and controlling Singapore’s banking sector arose last month (19 Aug) when the managing director of MAS, Ravi Menon, wrote to ST Forum revealing for the first time that majority of senior management positions in Singapore’s banking industry are held by foreigners (‘MAS: 57% of senior management positions in banking industry held by foreigners‘).
Ong quoted figures saying that the financial sector has created about 22,000 new jobs in the last five years, of which 15,000 had gone to Singaporeans. Of the estimated 171,000 workers in the financial sector, 70 per cent are Singaporeans, 14 per cent permanent residents (PRs) and 16 per cent foreigners, he said.
Still, he acknowledged that majority of the senior roles went to foreigners – 20 per cent PRs and 36 per cent work pass holders, giving a total of 56 per cent. That means only 44 per cent of senior management positions in the banking industry are held by Singaporeans.
He attributed the high percentage figure of foreigners in senior positions, who came from over 50 countries, to the international activities undertaken in the financial centre. The staff profile of regional and global activities in any leading financial centre tends to be more internationally diverse, he said.
“But this does not mean that Singaporeans are getting the short end of the stick, because it’s not a zero-sum game,” he tried to assure Singaporeans.
He said that the number of senior positions in Singapore’s financial sector grew from 3,900 to 5,900 from 2014 to 2019, while the absolute number of senior jobs taken by Singaporeans increased from 1,700 to 2,600. This translates to an increase of more than 50 per cent in five years, or an additional 900 Singaporeans taking up senior roles, noted Ong.
From the figures given by Ong, it also means that the number of senior jobs taken by foreigners increased from 2,200 to 3,300. This translate to an increase of 1,100 foreigners taking up senior roles in the financial industry in the last 5 years.
Nevertheless, he acknowledged that MAS could do more to create opportunities for Singaporeans.