Dear Editors

I refer to the article “Parliament: MOM took action against about 50 firms for failing to give Singaporeans a fair chance when hiring” (Straits Times, Mar 7).

It states that “Fifty companies that failed to give Singaporeans fair consideration when hiring have been taken to task, said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say on Monday (March 6). More than 500 Employment Pass applications from these employers have been rejected by the Manpower Ministry (MOM) or withdrawn by the companies, he said during the debate on his ministry’s budget. These companies are among the uncooperative firms on the Fair Consideration Framework Watchlist, which keeps track of firms not doing enough to hire and groom Singaporeans. The framework was introduced in 2014.”

Missing National Jobs Bank statistics?

The most important statistics are arguably still missing – what percentage of the jobs listed in the National Jobs Bank went to Singaporeans, PRs and foreigners?

More companies discriminating?

With regard to “At the end of February this year, there were 250 companies – in industries ranging from information and communication technology to professional services – on the watchlist, up from 100 at the start” – does this not indicate that perhaps more employers (from 100 to 250) may not be hiring Singaporeans?

Punitive actions?

In respect of “The Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices guides those on the watchlist to improve their employment practices over a period of six months” – does it mean that employers may simply still give preference to hiring non-Singaporeans – and then if you are caught – then start to give preference to hiring Singaporeans and replace foreigners whose employment passes are not allowed to be renewed, as they come up for renewal, with Singaporeans? In the meantime – how many of these foreigners have been reclassified as local workers with an average of about 20,000 new citizens and 30,000 new PRs granted annually?

Hired 800 more – 100,000 unemployed S’poreans?

As to “Collectively, these firms have hired 800 more Singaporean professionals, managers and executives since being placed on the watchlist. Those that continue to improve can be progressively removed from the list, he added” – this may be akin to just “a drop in the ocean” as I understand that the non-seasonally adjusted number of unemployed Singaporeans may now be about 100,000 with most of them being PMETs. “Those that continue to improve can be progressively removed from the list, he added. As for the 50 or so uncooperative firms, he said: “We will continue to curtail their work pass privileges until they improve.””

With regard to “Mr Lim also shared plans to develop more progressive employers. The Human Capital Partnership programme was launched last month – with 74 employers who employ about 100,000 Singaporeans – to recognise exemplary employers who invest in staff development. MOM will now treat companies differently based on their employment practices, he said.

Punitive measures?

Human Capital Partnership partners will be given “fast lane” access to development schemes and services such as SkillsFuture, as well as a dedicated hotline to MOM, while the majority who are fair employers will be in the “normal lane”. Those on the watch list for unfair HR practices will be in the “slow lane”, and subject to additional scrutiny when it comes to work pass applications” – don’t you find this so called punitive or “encouragement” actions against employers who prefer to hire non-Singaporeans laughable? – merely placed in the “slow lane” and “additional scrutiny when it comes to work pass applications”?

In respect of “While foreign manpower “is and will always be an integral part” of Singapore’s workforce, employers must give fair consideration to recruiting and developing local manpower, Mr Lim stressed. There are about 1.2 million foreign workers, excluding foreign domestic workers, he said. About 40 per cent of these foreign workers take on labour-intensive jobs few locals want, in sectors such as construction. And while about 45 per cent of them do jobs that locals will opt for, “we do not have enough locals to do these jobs”, he said, citing the shortage of Singaporean integrated circuit design engineers. The remaining 15 per cent of foreigners are in global headquarters. He said this is a boon for locals: There are about seven locals for every three foreigners in this segment. “On the whole, most of the foreigners working in Singapore do complement our local workforce rather than substitute our locals,” said Mr Lim.

11,400 jobs to locals against 37,300 to foreigners?

The persistent view that “foreigners are here to take away our jobs” is due to employers in some segments not giving fair consideration to the recruitment and development of local manpower, he added” – how do we explain the startling statistics that the employment change for the two years from 2015 to 2016 was 11,400 jobs to locals against 37,300 to foreigners?

2015-16: 60,000 new PRs, 40,000 new citizens?

Also, with an estimated 60,000 new PRs and 40,000 new citizens granted in the two years from 2015 to 2016 – how many of the 11,400 locals’ jobs went to Singaporeans?

Leong Sze Hian

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