The 3.5 million jobs for 2.5 million working adult Singaporeans cited by Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, while theoretically correct, may not prove to be as clear-cut in reality as the statistics do not address why Singaporeans are “losing out in PMET professions”, said the Workers’ Party (WP)’s Yee Jenn Jong.
Citing the latest employment statistics from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Mr Yee in a Facebook post on Monday (21 September) said that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 3.6 million people are employed in Singapore, 2.2 million of which comprise Singapore citizens and permanent residents (PRs).
“In theory, the Minister is correct. The question is how many of the non-local jobs are meant for or are suitable for locals,” he posited.
Mr Yee pointed out that from the 1 million over work permit and S-Pass holders, around 300,000 are in construction.
“In other developed countries, some of these jobs are taken by locals but at about 3x the salaries in Singapore. The higher wages is [sic] compensated by huge productivity advantages over similar workers in Singapore, especially in the construction and retail sectors.
“Hence, those jobs are viable for locals but sadly in Singapore, for some industries, our productivity is still at the level as in the 1980s/1990s,” he said.
Mr Yee questioned why Singaporeans are “losing out in PMET professions” and on such higher-paying jobs.
“We have top-ranked universities in the world yet we are losing out when it comes to employability. Why are so many Singaporeans struggling to hang on to their jobs and to make enough for daily expenses?”
“Even a PAP MP recently took notice of the situation in Changi Business Park and remarked that he felt like a foreigner in his own country. These are PMET jobs desired by locals but filled with many foreigners,” he remarked.
In a parliamentary speech on 31 Aug, West Coast Group Representation Constituency Member of Parliament Ang Wei Neng recalled an incident where he felt “like a foreigner in my own country” the first time in a visit to Changi Business Park prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Ang said that when he entered a lift, he noticed that the “well-dressed” people around him were “apparently foreigners” and speaking in a language foreign to him.
He questioned if it was “too easy for foreign talents to work in Singapore”.
Highlighting an instance when he was having lunch with the head of a delivery company — a subsidiary of a German multinational company — Mr Ang said that according to the Frenchman, it would be difficult for him to find a similar opportunity in France due to the high unemployment rate.
The Frenchman, who is in his 30s, added that many of his expatriate friends felt the same way too — that it was easier for them to secure a good job in Singapore.
Mr Ang told the House that he believed Singaporeans can fill these regional or senior management positions which are currently filled by foreigners, and stressed that the Singaporean core should be safeguarded across all industries, and not just the financial sector.
Mr Yee in his Facebook post argued that the creation and availability of jobs is one thing, while creating jobs relevant to citizens is another.
“It is one thing to be correct in theory and another thing to execute a plan to do something about a situation that is not right. Yes, there are 3.5 million and more jobs, for the 2.5 million or so locals in employment or actively seeking one. It is another thing to make jobs relevant to Singaporeans,” he said.