Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing told reporters at Marina One yesterday (1 Oct) the importance of Singapore to attract foreign talents.
“Singapore’s reputation as a hub for talent is hard-won. But at the same time, this reputation can also be easily lost if we are not careful,” he said.
Singapore has to be able to draw talent here to contribute, he added.
He recalled how a businessman told him that the COVID-19 crisis can be “the opportunity of a generation for Singapore to attract the very best from all around the world to come and join Team Singapore”.
“We are committed to strengthening our attractiveness to businesses and talent to (get them to) join Team Singapore in order for us to excel against our competitors,” he said.
There is nothing wrong trying to attract the “very best” from around the world to join and contribute to Singapore, but over the last decade or so, many of the so-called “very best” were questionable.
From the various reported incidents in the media, the Manpower Ministry (MOM) does not seem to have the ability to discern the “very best” from the “very mediocre” or even the “very fraudulent” in issuing work passes for these “foreign talents” to work here.
A good example is Mikhy Brochez, the “foreign talent” at the centre of the Singapore’s HIV Registry leak last year. He, in fact, had used forged university degrees to work at Temasek Polytechnic (TP) and Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) when he was in Singapore (‘Temasek Poly on Brochez submitting fake degrees for job: “He met the job requirements”‘, 3 Feb 2019).
When TP was asked by the media how Brochez was able to be recruited by the school with forged degrees, a TP spokesman said, “Based on the documents that Brochez submitted in his job application in 2008, he met the job requirements.”
It was during a police investigation over a drug possession case that Brochez was found to be using forged degrees to work and stay in Singapore. The police then informed the 2 schools.
The media also interviewed MOM about the Brochez case and a MOM spokesman replied that before making an application for an Employment Pass (EP), the employer would have already evaluated the candidate, including his qualifications.
Appearing to be defensive, MOM said most employers take this role seriously and ensure that their recruitment of foreigners would be rigorous. MOM added that it takes a risk-based approach by conducting additional checks on “selected applications”.
The media reported that 36 foreigners were prosecuted by MOM in 2014 for providing falsified documents. This was a drop from the 121 foreigners convicted of the offence between 2012 and 2013, even though the number of “foreign talents” entering Singapore to work here has been increasing.
With regard to the Brochez case, former NMP Prof Eugene Tan was reported to have told the media, “Sure, he (Brochez) might have had help, but given the roles and responsibilities he was entrusted with – educator and child psychologist – it does raise the question of whether checks (across the sectors) were robust and thorough enough.”
Hiring own kinds
Then, there are foreign hiring managers “hiring their own kinds”, which raises the question if those hired “foreign talents” of the “same kinds” are truly the “very best” Chan was talking about.
In fact, many Singaporean PMETs know that discriminatory practices by foreign hiring managers have been ongoing for awhile. As far back as 2013, Singaporeans working in the financial industry were already complaining about discriminatory hiring practices. At the time, DPM Tharman and then Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin had to call up some banks in Singapore to ask them to stop the practice of “hiring their own kinds”. This was revealed in Parliament by Minister Tan in 2013.
It’s only in recent times that the PAP government has stepped up enforcement, especially after the ruling party has just lost 2 GRCs in the recent general election in Jul.
In Aug, MOM announced that another 47 companies with suspected discriminatory hiring practices have been placed on its Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) watchlist (‘MOM places firms with “high concentration of PMETs from single nationalities” in FCF watchlist‘, 6 Aug).
Of the 47 companies, 30 are in the financial and professional services sectors. They include banks, fund management firms, management consulting companies, as well as firms that provide project management and engineering services.
MOM acknowledged that all 30 of the financial and professional services employers have a “high concentration of PMETs from single nationalities”. In one financial institution, almost three-quarters of their PMETs are of the same nationality and in another bank, almost two-thirds of the PMETs are also of the same nationality, MOM revealed.
MOM did not name the companies or the nationalities involved. It added that another 240 firms are under investigation for possible pre-selection of foreigners or not adhering to the spirit of the job advertising requirement under FCF.
This high concentration of PMETs from single nationalities was so prominent that even West Coast GRC MP Ang Wei Neng lamented in Parliament (31 Aug) that he felt “like a foreigner in my own country” when he visited the Changi Business Park prior to the coronavirus pandemic (‘MP Ang Wei Neng takes 9 yrs to feel like a foreigner in own country when visiting Changi Business Park‘).
He told Parliament that when he entered a lift, he noticed that the “well-dressed” people around him were “apparently foreigners” and speaking in a language foreign to him.