In a column piece at Quartz India, Indian journalist Ananya Bhattacharya has accused Singapore of being racist in its push to curtail employment passes to Indian “foreign talent”. She has compared the “anti-immigrant climate” in the city state to Trump’s America, and accuses local Singaporeans of perpetuating a climate of discrimination against Indians.
The move comes as Singapore prioritizes its citizens in the wake of a massive onslaught of foreigners entering the Singapore workforce in the preceding decade.
Bhattacharya cites an interview with a local director of global trade development at the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), who told Quartz: “They started shutting the tap down by making it more expensive, making it more cumbersome for companies.”
According to the director, Singapore first raised the salaries required for foreign workers entering the country and pegged the number of foreign workers a company can hire to the number of local staff it has hired. The Ministry of Manpower is also asking for more information in relation to work-permit applications for Indian IT professionals when granting visa applications, a move that some Indian firms feel is contrary to the 2005 CECA agreement between the two countries. Since October 2015, Singapore also requires that an employer with over 25 employees advertise a vacancy for two weeks on a national jobs database, Jobsbank, before applying for an employment pass for a foreign worker to fill that role.
Quartz reports that before these measures, “Indian tech companies were awarded between 5,000 and 10,000 work permits each year… The total population of Indian techies in Singapore has shriveled to under 10,000.”
Bhattacharya wrote: “Each of these places poses a unique problem beyond the legal woes: For instance, a resurgence of white supremacist organisations nationwide and xenophobic political rhetoric have fueled hate crimes in the US. While such acts of violence are unheard of in Singapore, an unwelcoming sentiment toward Indians has been pervading the Asian country too.
The city-state—where nearly 10% of the citizens are of Indian heritage and Tamil is an official language—has seen discrimination against prospective home renters of Indian-origin. Inter-racial couples are subject to constant scrutiny and Singaporean students of Indian descent have complained of being victims of racism. Meanwhile, a new political party, SingFirst, says the city-state needs to focus on “growing our own timber,” when it comes to the workforce, and be less reliant on foreign labor.”