Manpower Minister Josephine Teo was in tears while delivering her speech in Parliament on Tuesday (1 September) when she emphasised that the Government will support and have the back of workers in Singapore amid the bleak economy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Please know that you are always in our hearts. However long this storm lasts, the MOM (Ministry of Manpower) will walk the journey together with you. However tough it may be, we will help you bounce back,” she said.
She added that MOM’s mission “is to help each one of you emerge stronger by never giving up home and by working with employers in Singapore to treat you fairly, to make your hard work bear fruit”.
“Our work is not yet done. We have taken firm steps forward and we will press on whatever the challenges – with you, for you, for Singapore.”
While delivering her speech, Ms Teo highlighted the Government’s push to retain the Singaporean core in the working world. These include changing and adjusting work pass policies frequently and slowing down the growth of Employment Pass (EP) and S Pass holders, she noted.
For example, Ms Teo stated that from 2014 to 2019, the number of EP and S Pass holders’ growth has reduced to below 9,000 annually on average. This is less than one-third of the average annual growth of 30,400 in the last five years.
Meanwhile, the number of locals, both Singaporeans and permanent residents, working in the PMET (professional, manager, executive and technician) sectors has grown by around 35,000 yearly from 2014 to 2019, Ms Teo pointed out.
“In other words, for every new EP or S Pass holder added in the last five years, about four more locals took up PMET jobs,” she explained.
If that’s not all, due to the pandemic, the number of EP and S Pass holders have sharply dipped between January and July this year as well. It dropped by 22,000.
Separately, Ms Teo also acknowledged that the pandemic has caused stress on Singapore’s workforce, adding that the Government understands the anxiety of PMETs in their 40s and 50s, as well as their concerns about fair treatment and opportunities.
“We also appreciate the need to keep supporting workers who earn less to grow their income over time and address income inequality,” she said.
In her speech, the Manpower Minister also shared stories of three workers who had come forward to interact with her, and who had either received help from various job-related schemes, or talked about their concerns with MOM.
She added that these three workers “remind the MOM team what our work is about.”
“We are always here, listening to their struggles, thinking deeply about the support they need, recognising the constraint, adjusting policies in their best interest, finding better ways to protect them against unfair practices and ultimately, helping them get onto the path of growth in their work lives that they so deserve,” she said.
Over on social media, online users remained unmoved by Ms Teo’s tears. Penning their thoughts in the Facebook pages of Mothership and Yahoo Singapore, netizens now addressed her as “wayang queen” for tearing up while delivering her speech in Parliament, while adding that her tears are to “manipulate and win sympathy”.
Others pointed out that she had been slacking in her job as the Manpower Minister for years as there have been “many lapses & problems in her ministry”. As such, they call for Ms Teo to tender in her resignation as the country’s Manpower Minister.
Meanwhile, some stated that given she is being paid so high as a Manpower Minister, Ms Teo failed to see what’s happening on the ground among Singaporeans. Their jobs are being snatched away by foreign talents, resulting in them not being able to pay bills and be jobless, netizens explained. One commenter even challenged Ms Teo to go unpaid if the unemployment rate raise to 3 per cent, in order to show her commitment towards Singaporeans.
A large number of online users stated that there is no use for her to cry, and all they want is a concrete plans on how MOM is planning to improve job market for Singaporeans. They added that MOM needs to do more to get rid of unfair hiring in order to help the locals. Some of the suggestions include helping Singaporeans stay in employment, increase their income, help them retire with adequacy, and help to retrieve back PMET jobs from foreign talents.