On Friday (4 Sep), TodayOnline published an article highlighting that foreign expats are worried about growing job insecurity as Singapore tightened the requirements for hiring foreigners to work here (‘The Big Read: Facing job uncertainty and online vitriol, expats in S’pore share their worries and anxieties‘).
It interviewed some 20 foreign expats to get their feedback. The expats said they are worried about their growing job insecurity and prospects as companies may be forced to look inward amid the push for local hires.
They added that while their interactions with locals face-to-face remain pleasant, the spike in anti-foreigner sentiments online and hearsay of the predicaments of other expats who got the axe have added to their anxiety in recent months.
Ms Tang, a Taiwanese expat who worked as a sales executive at a tech company, said that for the past 2 months, she is feeling rather unwelcome. She tries to avoid engaging in the local social media, where they are increasingly filled with anti-foreigner vitriol, such as “foreigners are stealing our jobs” and “foreign trash”.
But she was surprised that even Singaporean politicians are calling for tightening of immigration policy. She cited Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who had said in a live televised debate in recent GE that the “only reason we have foreigners here is to give that little extra wind in our sails when the opportunities are there”, and now that Singapore is in a storm, it needs to “shed ballast”.
Ms Tang’s worst fears were confirmed later that month when she lost her job. She said she is almost resigned to the fact that she may not find new job in Singapore, after 10 of 17 firms told her that they could not sponsor her work pass application although they were keen to hire her.
A disappointed Ms Tang said, “The economy would return to normal again. If Singapore puts itself in this kind of position, who is going to work here again? It will be pretty much like Japan.”
Ms Tang also added, “If all the foreigners leave, who is going to pay the rent for condos? Their Singaporean owners will be struggling to pay their condo mortgages.”
Apparently, the salary Ms Tang got when she was employed could enable her to pay more than S$4,000 in rent a month.
Indian expat: Not our mistake to flood IT sector
One Indian EP holder, who said to have a Master’s degree, has been on an exasperating job hunt since April when he was retrenched from a logistics firm. He has sent out between 100 and 120 IT job applications but was still unable to get a job.
“I did receive a couple of calls, but the first question they asked was if I am a Singaporean or PR. I am not even considered for an interview. It stops there,” said the man who declined to be named.
“It is not our mistake (to flood the IT sector),” he added.
Another Indian IT expat said, “The Government loses if there is no foreign talent. It will add burden to its budget.”
Angry with MOM
Amelia, a 37-year-old who did not want to give her real name or nationality, appeared to be angry when interviewed by TodayOnline. She is a housewife and her husband, a European, was retrenched in May. However, a company was willing to hire him but his new EP application is taking a long time to be processed by Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
There have been multiple emotional episodes of shouting and crying between Amelia and her husband, due to the long wait for his new EP application to be approved.
But time is of the essence as her son could not start his Primary One class at an international school, which began earlier this week, because her husband must first obtain an in-principle work pass approval from MOM.
She added that even though her husband was an EP holder before, MOM required him to get a third-party agency to verify his diploma degree, which lengthened the processing time. Scolding MOM, an emotional Amelia told the reporter, “Why don’t they just tell me that they would like to deny the application? Why are you making us hang on?”
“At this point, I feel that nobody really gives a s*** about your situation. They don’t care about your whole family. They don’t care that your kids are going to suffer… On the whole, I feel the society has turned suddenly against foreigners, waiting to kick you out,” she exclaimed.
She also sensed the growing xenophobic sentiments especially on social media. The Robertson Quay incident where 7 foreigners were caught flouting social-distancing rules has made her feel that expats could be bashed on any matter.
“Before Covid-19, people were nice. Now, I feel that deep down, nobody welcomes us here,” said Amelia.