Channel News Asia (CNA) published an interview on Sunday (18 Dec 2022) with two Meta staff who came to Singapore on Employment Passes (EP) recently, only to be retrenched last month in November. Meta is the parent company that owns Facebook.
The two depressed foreigners, one from India and another from China, told CNA how desperate they were to find a job so they could stay-on in Singapore before their short-term visit passes expired.
They were affected by the recent Meta’s global cut involving 11,000 staff.
Both of interviewees, Ms Susmita Sahu and the mainland Chinese who wanted to be known by her initials EZ, said they were hired as “technical sourcers” in Meta’s Human Resource department.
EZ came in June, while Ms Susmita came in July. Both said they were offered annual salaries in the range of S$100,000.
Meta’s HR department heavily staffed with little workload
One of the things that surprised EZ when she joined the company was that the Human Resource department was already heavily staffed.
“That’s kind of like a sign right? We had so many people but actually the workload is not that much,” she said, adding that she and her team-mates did not have much to do.
EZ, who moved from Shanghai, said her mind went blank upon seeing the dreaded retrenchment email. Her phone started buzzing nonstop from around 7am that day, EZ said. “I woke up and checked my email (and I saw something) like ‘Unfortunately you are being included in this layoff’ … I didn’t know what to think.”
“I know some of my team-mates brought their families here … I was kind of worried for them. I didn’t know whether they got it or not … then I realised that everybody (in her team) got the same email,” EZ said.
Ms Susmita said she started crying upon seeing the retrenchment email. “Waking up that day I was very devastated … I spoke with people who were affected. Everybody’s voices were shaking, they could not talk about it,” the 29-year-old Indian national said.
Her access to the office and her company laptop was cut on the same day. She did not even get a chance to return to the office, and her belongings were sent to her home.
“I literally cried in front of (the delivery person) because I was very emotional seeing those things from my … office and he apologised. He was like: ‘We are sorry for what you’re going through, this is your stuff from the office’,” said Ms Susmita.
She believes her department was the worst hit in Singapore, with about 120 employees getting the axe.
“When I got this job at Meta, I was really happy. Really, really happy. In fact, it was like a dream come true,” Ms Susmita continued. Indeed, S$100,000 amounts to 6.1 million rupees, a large sum in India.
“It was a great place to learn, I could have easily stayed for five, seven years if I was not laid off.”
Both diligently applying for jobs wanting to stay on in Singapore
Both women are racing against the clock to find a new job in Singapore, after their EP was cancelled with their departure from Meta. The Manpower Ministry (MOM) gave them a 90-day short-term visit pass, during which they have to find a job or return home.
Both said they have been diligently sending out applications and are prepared to take a pay cut of 30 to 40 per cent.
EZ said she sent out 15 to 17 applications in Singapore for similar roles, but the only two that responded could not promise EP.
Ms Susmita said she has applied for 80 to 90 positions and interviewed for almost 15 companies, but has received few responses. Firms that do respond are not able to offer her an employment pass, she said.
Competition has been tight, with openings for human resource positions heavily oversubscribed, said Ms Susmita. One such position had about 200 applicants within hours of the job posting.
“I still feel like I hope this is all a dream and I wake up to a normal day where I can go to office to my work. Even if it was like, some days, 12 hours of work,” she said. “It was better than what it is right now, the stress of finding a job … more work is better than no work.”
While both hope to get a job and stay in Singapore, they may have no choice but to return home should they can’t find a job in the given 90 days by MOM.
EZ is prepared to return to China in February next year at the latest, while Ms Susmita has bought an air ticket for a flight in March in case things do not work out.
Consoling herself, EZ said, “Going back to my country is not a really bad decision … Some parts of Singapore are better but some parts I miss back in my hometown, so I would think going back is not really bad. So I’m okay with the so-called worst-case scenario”
“I still want to stay here, I mean after all the relocation … I tried to get used to the food and weather.”
For Ms Susmita, the bad news couldn’t have come at a worse time of the year. She had planned to fly to Thailand, Bali and Vietnam from Dec 21 until New Year’s Day to meet her family. But she had to cancel her trip after she was laid off.
‘All my life, we were always together on his birthday and this time I won’t be there,” she said. “I could not buy even a Christmas tree over here so I was really sad … these are little things that you really enjoy and the whole season of holidays is gone for all of us.”
It is not known why MOM is giving work passes to foreigners to do HR work in Singapore when many locals can easily do these jobs too.