Foreigners formed a substantial part of the workforce in Australia. In Sydney, one can see at least two Asians to one white when you walk around in the city with the racial proportion even higher in Asian- dominated surbans in Hurstville, Newtown or Rockdale.

However, after the Howard government fell in the 2000s due to voter resistance against pro-immigration policies, elected governments continued to scale back the number permitted each year based on the skills-based 457 work visa and humanitarian programmes.

Currently, only less than 80,000 fresh work visas are issued annually and they have to be approved niche skills unavailable in the job market. You be surprised that jobs such as chefs or electricians are approved niche skills which require foreign labour assistance.

Manual work such as labouer or gardener is well paid to the tune of $30 an hour as not many like to dirty their hands there. A construction worker can earn up to A$60000 per annum there compared to our meagre $2 an hour wage for the unskilled Bangla worker.

Moreover, employers have to advertise for a minimum of 6 months before they can apply for a 4-year 457 work visa for a foreigner to work in Australia.

Minimum wage also helps as people who want to work will be able to survive. However, its generous unemployment welfare means a huge percentage of the fresh school leavers struggle with getting by with welfare benefit or look for work which may not pay as much as the social welfare benefit.

Anyone who files for unemployment welfare may receive up to $750 per fortnight now subject to approval. The current Abbot government has rightly tries to restrict such generous welfare programme by delaying the application for such aid six months after the person leaves school.

Its also difficult to find any supervisor or manager who is a foreigner – the Aussies try to preserve their power base in the workforce by appointing their own people in supervisory positions.

I worked in a nursing home before and all the supervisors are white. This is so different from Singapore whereby many of us find ourselves reporting to foreign managers.

Unless the foreign labour situation improves here, Singaporeans will continue to search for greener pastures abroad.

Gilbert Goh

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