Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Friday (13 Aug) that “it is not possible to bubble wrap” Singapore’s workers from foreign competition, as there will be millions of university graduates in Asia that will be added to the global talent pool in the coming years.
Speaking at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) forum, Mr Heng noted that the pace of technological change will further accelerate, quickening the pace of disruption.
“The reality is that it is not possible to ‘bubble wrap’ (Singapore’s) workers from foreign competition and still expect to succeed,” he remarked.
Mr Heng mentioned that the norms of working from home due to the COVID- 19 pandemic has made remote work “more commonplace” now.
“But ‘working from home’ is just one step away from ‘working from anywhere’. And if workers can work from anywhere, employers can easily seek out the best skilled workers from all parts of the world.
“Even more physical jobs – such as port crane operators – can now be done remotely, in the comfort of a control room. And the control room can possibly be located thousands of miles away. This means foreigners do not have to be in Singapore to compete with us,” he added.
When being asked how students about to enter the workforce could prepare themselves to be truly global, Mr Heng noted that students will need to have a mindset orientated towards qualities of confidence, humility and openness.
“You have to combine confidence with that humility to learn to be able to work with others. In particular, there will be many different ways of doing things, and we must not assume that our way is the best way,” he explained.
“Singaporeans venturing out need to have this mindset where we see what we can contribute to causes, and what it is that we bring to and can learn from the discussion. That process, I think we can do a lot better.”
Mr Heng had also emphasized in his speech that Singapore should embrace openness.
“There is certainly room to adjust our foreign manpower policies. And there is scope to strengthen our laws on fair treatment at the workplace. But closing our doors is ineffective and provides a false promise of security.”
“We must not box ourselves into a false choice. Instead, we should embrace both openness and equip our people with the experience and skills to succeed – this is how we will thrive in a rapidly evolving world,” he added.
Netizens slam DPM Heng: “We are not asking to be bubble wrapped”
Penning their thoughts under the comments section of The Straits Times’ Facebook post on the matter, a handful of netizens pointed out that Singaporeans are not asking to be “bubble wrapped” but are only seeking balance and fair hiring for the local workforce.
Some even slammed the Minister for blaming Singaporeans for wanting to be bubble wrapped instead of addressing the issue.
“We are not asking to be bubble wrapped. But a lot of the developed countries government do have some sort of protective measures to minimise the impact for locals but we have none. It is not unreasonable for the locals to expect some kind of support , why do I need a government if it’s a free for all laissez faire system,” said a netizen.
“Obviously something seriously went wrong in the last 2 decades of education system to produce enough local talents, and now blame it on the people of wanting to be bubble wrapped??” another netizen asked.