44 per cent of respondents disagree on foreign labour policies and local job protection in ST survey

44 per cent of respondents disagree on foreign labour policies and local job protection in ST survey

SINGAPORE — According to a survey conducted by Straits Times, about 40 per cent agreeing, 44 per cent disagreeing and the rest not knowing enough to answer on the question of whether the island state has struck the right balance in bringing in foreign workers and protecting local jobs.

The survey that was conducted with 1,000 Singaporeans and permanent residents on Forward Singapore topics, found younger respondents were more likely to agree that Singapore had found the right balance, but this number slid with age.

The Forward Singapore campaign was launched by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong in June this year to examine Singapore’s values and aspirations, build consensus, and so refresh the social compact with the people.

The six key pillars of the Forward Singapore nationwide engagement exercise include jobs and the economy, health and social support, environment and fiscal sustainability, education and lifelong learning, home and living environment, and the Singapore identity.

The survey of 1,000 Singaporeans and permanent residents on Forward Singapore topics was commissioned by The Straits Times and conducted by consumer research firm Milieu Insight in September.

College vice-dean of special programmes and sociologist Daniel Goh from the National University of Singapore (NUS) was quoted by ST saying that younger Singaporeans are more receptive to messaging from the Government on the topic of foreign labour as they experience the need for openness in the workplace and in schools.

“In contrast, the older generation faced the toughest competition and displacement in the labour market in the decades of immigration in the 1990s and 2000s, when attention to the protection of local jobs was not as strong as it is today.” said the vice-dean.

Could it also be that the older generation of Singaporeans faces age discrimination in their employment? 35 per cent of respondents in a recent survey conducted by AWARE said they had been discriminated against on the basis of age – the second-most common reason cited, after race (41 per cent).

Furthermore, many of these young Singaporeans for those who agreed might not understand the implications or experience the issues faced by the senior Singaporean workers as they are still young or even might be still pursuing academic achievements.

NUS sociologist Tan Ern Ser was also quoted by ST, saying that younger Singaporeans who are increasingly more “future-ready” and experience less or no competition from foreign professionals at the entry level are more likely to agree the right balance has been found.

In contrast, older workers are likely concerned about their prospects for re-employment and lacking the skills that younger people and foreign professionals possess.

ST notes Mr Tan as saying that the Progressive Wage Model may mitigate the concern that the availability of foreign workers may render seniors in lower-level jobs less competitive should they demand higher wages.

The reported figure for the resident labour force for 2021 was 2.4 million while the total foreign workforce (excluding migrant domestic workers) in 2021 was reported as 1.05 million

Will the current estimated 50% of the total workforce, being non-Singaporeans (including new citizens who were not born in S’pore as citizens, or were born in S’pore as non-citizens (“non-native” S’poreans), continue to grow?

This question is particularly troubling since Singapore’s birth rate is at 1.01 and the government’s projected population figure in 2030 under the Population White Paper is 6.9 million, which can only be achieved largely if not entirely through immigration.

What will be the implications to Singaporeans – both young and old – for jobs, in respect of employment, unemployment, under-employment, incomes, etc?

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