SINGAPORE — Speaking at the launch of a tech talent conversion programme on Thursday (Jan 26), Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo said Singapore will continue to invest in developing local tech talent despite the recent lay-offs at tech giants as this is “the right thing to do”.

In recent weeks, tech companies have been announcing job cuts worldwide, which also affected Singapore. Some of the Meta and Twitter staff in Singapore have been retrenched recently, for example.

“But there is also recognition that technology will continue to undergird the growth of our economies,” said Ms Teo. Despite the recent lay-offs in tech companies, she said that other sectors like banking, logistics and even accommodation have been hiring tech talent.

“Tech workers with highly specialised skills continue to be in demand, such as in software development, cloud management, cybersecurity and data science. This comes as no surprise as technology has become a critical part of every industry,” she said.

“We therefore continue to believe that investing heavily in reskilling and upskilling Singaporeans for career opportunities in tech is not only the right thing to do, but also a significant investment to provide opportunities for Singaporeans.”

She cited the Tech Skills Accelerator (TeSA) programme from the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) for having trained and placed more than 13,000 people into “good tech jobs” since 2016. This works out to be less than 2,000 a year.

Another 180,000 people had been trained in tech skills in emerging areas like cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and data analytics, she added. But she did not say how many of these people have secured permanent tech jobs with good pay after training.

“With this strong commitment from both the government and industry, I am confident that even with recent headwinds, our tech sector can continue to grow,” said Ms Teo.

Cognizant transfers staff from India to work in Singapore

Despite the rosy picture painted by Ms Teo, many multinationals continue to transfer their staff from overseas to work in their Singapore branches and subsidiaries, depriving opportunities for Singaporeans to work here.

In November last year, following a report that Accenture and Cognizant in India were letting go of their staff with falsified credentials and experience letters, many Singaporean netizens wondered if some of these people with shady credentials might be transferred to their Singapore branches and work in Singapore instead.

Under the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), intra-corporate transferees can be transferred from one country to another and work in that country for up to as long as 8 years.

TOC emailed Cognizant for a response, but to date, there has been no reply.

Separately, TOC, from its own sources, was able to determine that Cognizant has been transferring staff from India to work in Singapore over various times in the whole of last year.

Indian IT engineers and managers were transferred to Singapore to work on projects which Cognizant has secured from clients in Singapore.

So, while Ms Teo’s ministry is “investing heavily in reskilling and upskilling Singaporeans”, the Manpower Ministry has been busy issuing work passes to foreign “tech talent” to work here, depriving Singaporeans of the opportunities to get those jobs.

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