The number of foreigners taking up professional, manager and executive (PME) jobs in Singapore have grown “exponentially”, said Senior Consultant at HRmatters21, Martin Gabriel.
Speaking in a live chat with TOC on Wednesday evening (14 July), Mr Gabriel expressed that he himself have encountered situations where he was the only Singaporean surrounded by a group of foreigners in different work settings.
For example, when he once conducted a training programme in 2016, he was surprised to find out that all the participants who were part of the programme were foreign PMEs, making him wonder why couldn’t Singaporeans fill up these positions.
Earlier this month (6 July), Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said in Parliament that there are around 177,000 individuals on Employment Passes (EPs) in Singapore as of 2020. In fact, from 2005 to 2020, Dr Tan said that the number of EPs rose by about 112,000.
Although the amount of EPs issued have increased, the Minister also revealed in his Ministerial Statement that the number of local PMEs have also went up by more than 380,000 from 2005 to 2020.
For instance, in infocomm, the number of EPs went up by around 25,000, but the number of job created for local PMEs was about 35,000. As for finance, jobs for EPs stood at 20,000 while job creation for locals were at 85,000.
Although Dr Tan stated that more local PMEs have secured jobs in the last 15 years, the number of work passes granted over the years have maintained an upward trend.
In fact, the number of work passes, which include work permit, EP, and S Pass, granted to foreigners stand at more than 1.21 million, up from 1.13 million in the year earlier.
Whereas, only 1.1 million work passes were given out in 2018.
However, it is noteworthy that there were 311,280 new citizens and 644,559 Permanent Residents (PRs) granted during the same time that Dr Tan referred to for the growth of 380,000 local PMEs.
If we were to just consider the number of new citizenships granted against the number of PME jobs created, this would imply that a large number of existing Singaporean PMEs losing their jobs since the authorities would likely put high pay as a qualifying criteria in granting citizenship.
Speaking about the type of foreigners brought into the country for jobs, Mr Gabriel stressed that it is important for Singapore to bring in only quality workers who have the right skills to do the job.
“We have to ensure that the people who come in here really bring quality, not quantity. Where we (Singaporeans) lack certain skills, then we bring in foreigners that can complement our entire economy,” said the HR expert who has more than 30 years of experience in the industry.
He added, “If we are going to look for an astronaut in Singapore, can you find one here? I don’t think so. So in that sense, we can bring in someone outside. But what I’m looking now is that the changes are so rapid, and jobs that I believe we can do.”
Another point that Mr Gabriel pointed out is that companies are also hiring foreigners for less professional positions like secretary, which clearly can be done by a local Singaporean.
For instance, he said that he once had a meeting with a company who was on the Ministry of Manpower’s Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) Watchlist. The meeting was attended by the General Manager and Secretary, who were both foreigners.
“Since they are on the Watchlist, they asked me what to do and they recommended to get a cleaner to enhance the FCF of the locals.
“I did tell them that their secretary is a foreigner and I think a Singaporean can do the job… For jobs that Singaporeans can do, (it) should go to Singaporeans. (Plus) we have the local knowledge to do the job. To bring foreigners to do secretarial job is a little bit baffling and very surprising for me,” Mr Gabriel recounted.
Government should empathise with Singaporeans, not behest corporations
The HR expert also called on the Government to go easy with the number of foreigners being brought into the country as the current situation here is overwhelming.
“If I were to speak to the Government right now through this live chat, then I would say to slow down the numbers because we are overwhelmed,” he asserted.
Mr Gabriel went on to say that the Government cannot be at behest to just the corporations, adding that it should be responsible and empathise with local Singaporeans as they are the ones who voted the policymakers in.
“Of course we need trade and (be part) of the global market as Singapore’s market is very small. But I will call the Government to be more responsible (and) empathise with Singaporeans,” he expressed.