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Singaporeans are losing jobs to foreigners

World Affairs Talk | Jan 19, 2007

The Sunday Times recently published a report stating about nine out of 10 Singaporean professionals fear that foreigners will take their jobs. These professionals also opposed the government’s effort to encourage the foreigners in the country. They feel, the country already allowed enough foreign talent to work here and should stop trying to attract any more.

Singapore government conversely stepped up its efforts to magnetize more talented foreign professionals to boost the labour market (including white color jobs) and to overcome the shortage. The government feels, attracting talented foreign migrants is crucial to Singapore's long-term world-wide competitiveness. Consequently, it requires them to fill the various jobs the fast growing economy is generating, most of which are in the IT and financial sectors. Equally pressing is the fact that the country’s future is threatened by a sharp birthrate decline which requires a top-up of educated foreigners to take up citizenship here. In a parallel move, the government approved an S$100millon plan to open training institutions over the next three years. Thousands of workers with practical experience will be provided certified training for various trades that will be recognized across the state. The objective of this project is to provide formal training to locals and cut down reliance on foreign laborers.

Singapore is home to some 750,000 foreign workers, both skilled and unskilled. Much of the unhappiness is directed at companies, including government-linked ones, hiring foreigners instead of qualified Singaporeans to save on salary. From the employers’ perspective, it has become harder to employ Singaporeans because many are unwilling to work at the weekend, which is a critical requirement in the services industry; foreign workers gladly accept these terms.

Singapore, the site of a prehistoric port, in its history, was a Malay fishing village when colonized by the United Kingdom in the 19th century. It was later occupied by the Japanese Empire during World War II. When Singapore attained its independence in 1959, it was economically weak and socio-politically much volatile. Foreign investment along with foreign professionals led the county to industrialization and hence created an economy which now relies on exports of electronics backed by a well administrated port. The Singaporean authorities have traditionally allowed companies here to hire foreign talents as it is one of the factors that draws multinationals to Singapore. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s ‘quality of life index’, Singapore has the highest standard of living in Asia, and is ranked 11th in the world; making the port city much attractive for the talented foreign migrants. Additionally, Singapore was rated as the ‘most business-friendly economy in the world’ at a World Bank-IFC report in 2006. On 5 October last year, the government announced that Singapore has recorded its highest employment rate in 15 years. Official statistics show 18 percent of the 4.4 million population of Singapore are foreigners. 

Local professionals complained that “Foreign talent policy” is widening income gap and several political leaders recently proposed measures to cut down reliance on foreign workers. Experts fear, government’s stand on the issue will create a sharp distinction between the rights and privileges of citizenship compared with non-citizens.

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