I refer to the article “Stop complaining and compete, says businessman Asad Jumabhoy” (Channel NewsAsia, Dec 10).
It states that
“Bharati: Of course if there weren’t a lot of political pressure, or at least if infrastructure had been built ahead of time to accommodate a larger number of people in Singapore, there wouldn’t have been such a rejection of an increase in foreign labour to begin with.
So it’s a lot of factors that have led to this policy including the birth rate etc. and a lot of factors that have led to the rejection of the policy as well including the fact that Singaporeans perceived foreigners as taking away white-collar jobs, jobs that we actually want to do. We should note the government is taking steps to address this.
Jumabhoy: I think it has to do with education and skills level. If you turn around and say, “I’m as good as the foreigner that comes in. I’m probably better-educated. I’m happy to compete.” it’s fine.
It’s a question of getting our local men and women to say the same thing. You’re good enough to compete, so compete. Stop complaining. Let anybody come. You want to work or you don’t want to work? You want to work hard or you don’t want to work hard? You want to get somewhere in this world or you don’t? It’s up to you.
Don’t come and tell me foreign guys came in and took my job. Improve your skills. I see so many kids today come from every kind of background, well-of backgrounds and not well-off backgrounds. They’re knocking themselves out learning. It’s really a question on how much you’re willing to put out and how hard you’re willing to work.
Bharati: Of course some might say no matter how hard I work, I’ll never really be able to compete because the foreigner doesn’t have to deal with the high cost of living that I do and therefore is willing to accept a lower salary than me, so he becomes a more attractive employee.
Jumabhoy: That’s market practice. Every time you interfere with market pricing, you end up in a mess. It’s not just Singapore, every country. If you put currency controls for example, you’ll get a problem somewhere else. All these things are interconnected. It’s been proven and it’s very painful to prove, but the market economy is a good allocator of resources.
If you have a feeling that your talent is worth more than what you’re being paid, go do something else. Go start your own business. If the market is saying, “Asad, I’m not willing to pay you so much for this job.” then I have two choices: either I change my job and change my focus or I stick with this and accept my position.”
How can ordinary Singaporeans compete with foreigners for jobs, when the playing field is not level – so extremely unlevel?
How do you compete with foreigners all over the world, who can come on a tourist visa – look for a job and stay when they find one – who are willing to work for much lower pay?
How to you compete with foreigners when employers can save as much as 18 per cent of wages, because foreign workers do not have to make CPF contributions?
How do you compete with male foreigners when they do not have to take leave due to National Service reservist training?
How do you compete with female foreigners who cannot (work permit holders) or are unlikely (employment pass holders) to get pregnant  and take four months maternity leave, because they came to Singapore as singles or their husbands are not in Singapore?
How do you compete with foreigners who are typically on two year contracts, and are unable (work permit holders) or unlikely to resign (employment pass holders) for at least two years – thus reducing employers’ turnover problems?
How do you compete with foreigners whose cost of living needs are much lower than yours?
Odds are stacked against S’poreans?
In the final analysis, it may not be so much about Singaporeans unwilling to compete, but rather that the odds are so stacked against them!
Leong Sze Hian
A.S.S. Contributor

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