I am writing this in response to a lot of people asking here on TRS ‘How did the Indians dominate the Singapore IT sector?’ and why they may not be cheap anymore.
The reason is due to a vicious cycle, the hollowing out of Singaporeans in the IT sector.
In the 80s and 90s it is true that there were cheaper and better IT workers from India. During the 80s and 90s there were many ‘A’ grade IT workers with very low pay in India and they were most willing to come to Singapore. It started the influx and when the floodgates opened up full blast in the 2000s, things got out of control.
Singaporeans pushed out of IT sector
As more and more Singaporeans lost their jobs and were replaced by Indians, the word went around and young Singaporeans refrained from studying IT due to the fear of not being able to get a job once they graduate. The skilled Singaporean IT workers who were retrenched either got out of Singapore or changed to other fields because they simply could not get another job in the IT sector.
Even the very few brave young Singaporeans who dare venture into the IT sector find themselves bullied by the Indian foreign legions who are the majority. Many have told me that senior Indian IT workers will never train a fresh Singaporean IT worker. They will squeeze that Singaporean out. They will make sure that the Singaporean flops so badly in their job that HR will think that all the Singaporean IT workers suck. So Singaporeans will never get to be trained in the IT field, leaving the Indians to continue to dominate that sector. It is the same as any animal species trying to eliminate competition from another species in the same forest.
As human resource (HR) only conducts interviews not relevant to technical skills, the interviews pertaining to testing of skill is usually done by the IT department managers/supervisors. There is a very high chance that the skill tester is an Indian. Do you think any Indian skill tester will qualify the Singaporean even if he/she proves to be competent? Face it, Indians are more united than Singaporeans and they know that unity means power!
There is no denial that Singaporean HRs also discriminate against Singaporeans especially in the IT sector. It may be due to the constant drumming into their heads that India produces the best IT workers throughout the years by the mainstream media whereas in fact we know that not all Indian IT workers are good. However in the eyes of the HRs, every Tom, Dick and Harry from India is an IT expert.
This may have gone to the extent that some HRs will automatically react to a self-fulfilling prophecy when a Singaporean IT worker underperforms, ‘See, I knew he will flop’. However do the HRs ever consider that it could be the Indian seniors/colleagues getting him into trouble? No, the HRs will not be bothered with such ‘trivial’ matters as long as they can keep their own rice bowl and answer to the boss.
I have witnessed many such cases happening to my friends and many leave this sector with deep resentment for Indians. I think that is why there were a lot of nasty remarks directed at the Indians for the Little India riot despite that some of those construction workers may themselves have been victims of exploitation by unscrupulous employers.
In the end, the HRs are forced to get only Indians for IT support. That is why many HRs will tell you that they cannot get good Singaporean IT workers.
Singaporeans’ reservist obligation
The other reason that HR does not want to hire Singaporeans for IT positions is RESERVIST. IT is still a male-dominated sector and Singaporean males have to go back for reservist training every year. It is true that disruptive reservist training is a major inconvenience for companies when IT is a crucial service to them.
Some MNCs in Singapore have informed our government of the reservist training issue and they said frankly that they don’t have this problem at all in other countries. They are only here to run a business and it is our government’s job to look for a solution. While our million dollar salary government scholars sleep on the issue, we are left to fend for ourselves.
In the late 90s, the management of a semi-conductor factory in Woodlands was so frustrated when 7 out of the 9 engineers in a department had to go for reservist training. It happened that all the 7 engineers were going for training at about the same time. MINDEF had refused deferment on the basis that there were already insufficient men for training. I think we are all too familiar with our governments’ bureaucratic no U-turn style of working and I therefore believe that MINDEF’s ‘standard reply’ to be true.
Imagine when a factory is rushing to fill an order and you, the manager, are informed that 7 out of 9 of your engineers will be out of action for a month because of reservist training! Even 3 out of 9 engineers out of action for a month in any company during a crucial period represents a big headache.
As a matter of fact, reservist has become a major obstacle for Singapore males to getting jobs in Singapore. Coupled with the influx of foreigners with no such disadvantage, why would any company consider employing a Singaporean male with reservist commitment?
While we have brought this up to the government several times, the government simply brushed it away saying that it is our DUTY to defend our country. Oh, yes, we have a PAP MP who rubs salt into our wounds with ‘Serving NS is a privilege to Singaporeans only’. We are all too familiar with the PAP’s ministers and MPs sneering and sarcastic tactics.
The typical Singaporean guy has the shorter end of the stick. When you are young, you are at a disadvantage because of reservist commitment. When you have completed your reservist commitment, employers will by then feel you are too old!
Singapore only a springboard
To the Indians, Singapore was never their first choice destination for work and their preference is to go to the West. After gaining working experience in Singapore, those Indians are only interested to move on to greener pastures, like US, UK, Canada and Australia. As the A grade IT workers in India also prefer to work in the West, this has resulted in companies being forced to up the salary scale to get some here. We have also become the springboard sucker for training foreigners in order for them to jump to greener pastures.
While the salary scale has gone up in Singapore, salaries in India have also started to rise in the last couple of years and this has forced the Singapore side to increase again. This is not to mention that the salary packages in the Western countries are even more attractive.
Many companies have got into some of the worst situations where even after upping the salary scale of Indian IT workers, they have only managed to get B or C grade IT workers from India. I think this is why we have been experiencing major network incidents in the last few years.
The above are reasons why Indian IT workers may not be as cheap or as good as you think.
I would also like to highlight the dubious quality of ‘superior Indian IT workers’.
Fake certificates and dubious working experience
I have a friend in HR showing me a long list of Indian IT application letters stating fabulous credentials in their CVs which are too good to be true. They have graduated from top universities, have good working experience in big firms and testimonials from reputable companies.
Fake certificates and overstating work experience are rampant in India. It is very difficult for HR to verify these claims as related bodies may not be helpful or there is no avenue for HR to verify.
First, there are too many ‘dubious universities’ in India. Even the top ‘genuine’ universities in India may not be forward in helping Singapore HR to verify the authenticity of their certificates. These bodies simply don’t bother to reply.
Fake certificate makers have also upped their game and some fake certificates are so good that they beat the counterfeit money printers. Fake certificate makers are making good money and they run a lower risk in comparison with printing counterfeit money.
I have also heard that there are many ‘professional exam/test takers’ in India and the Philippines due to the lax control of the exam and test centers in these countries. Employees of the exam and test centers are most willing to let the ‘professional exam/test takers’ take the test with a little under-table money.
My HR friend also told me that he has great difficulty verifying the working experience stated in CVs. Again, you get no reply from companies that the applicants claim to have worked for before. I am told that HR in companies in India are either too lazy to bother to reply or they are simply overwhelmed with enquiries from HRs all over the world.
Many applicants who falsify their working experience also like to name the same few ‘preferred choice’ companies due to their reputation. There are easily millions of Indian IT workers working outside India. It is a huge burden to the HRs in those ‘preferred choice’ companies to respond to requests for verification.
My HR friend once told me that 146 out of 160 Indian applicants for only one job position stated that they had worked for IBM India! I pity the HR of IBM India.
Many Indians are aware that it is very hard for HR in Singapore to verify the claims in their CVs. So why would the Indians worry about overstating or falsifying their credentials?
Maybe Singaporeans should also learn to ‘think out of the box’ like the Indian IT workers in order to compete.
Risk to Singapore
IT is an essential/crucial service and I have been told that PAP is aware that our IT sector is hollowed out by Indians and there is a risk.
The situation has raised concern especially after several major incidents like the DBS massive IT failure that knocked out islandwide ATMs, Singtel’s Internet Exchange building fire which brought networks down, M1’s 64-hour 3G network outage in January 2013 and the cyber attacks against government websites in November 2013. They have realized the shit that they are now in and Singapore is at the mercy of Indians in the IT sector.
There are deeper underlying concerns in regard to the above incidents.
Can we entrust crucial services like our nationwide network to foreigners who dominate that sector? In a scenario where for any reason the cross-country relationship sours between Singapore and India, are we in a position to ensure that we can run those crucial services ourselves? Mind you, India and the US have just got into a row over the strip-searching of an Indian diplomat in New York. Anything can happen!
Where are we going to find the manpower to fill those roles when the whole sector has been hollowed out by the Indians? You cannot train IT workers overnight and you don’t have experienced Singaporean IT personnel to train them!
BTW, I think the male-dominated Engineering sector is also being hollowed out in Singapore. Everybody says that Engineering is a dead-end job for Singaporeans. It was first hollowed out by PRCs in the 90s and 2000s. As salary in China grows, PRCs are now gradually being replaced by Pinoys. International Enterprise Singapore or IE Singapore (formerly Trade Development Board) has paid and assisted MNCs to conduct interviews overseas and bring foreign workers to Singapore.
FYI, Panasonic in Bedok South is one, because I know somebody from that company. It is an open secret that IE Singapore has been paying and assisting foreign workers to come to Singapore to work. It was reported that our government has even paid for interviews conducted in China to bring foreign workers to Singapore.
PAP government’s likely response
Will the government do anything about it?
The answer is likely NO! Why?
Since they are paying and helping companies to bring in foreign workers through IE Singapore, a statutory board, does it look likely they will stop? Singapore may be one of the very few countries which use public money to bring in foreigners to displace citizens in the job market. Or are we the only country doing so?
Lee Hsien Loong is too arrogant to allow anybody to disrupt his ‘economic plans’ and no minister dares to speak up. It is like nobody dared to wake Hitler up to send reinforcements when the Allies invaded Normandy in WWII. Lee Hsien Loong has used the party whip to ensure their members voted for the ’6.9 million Population Toilet Paper’ and push it through.
Lee Hsien Loong has surrounded himself with incompetent fools and yes-men subordinates and nobody dares to oppose him. Ngiam Tong Dow once hinted that ‘Our ministers are afraid of speaking up in Cabinet’. It is anybody’s guess if Ngiam Tong Dow was arm-twisted to retract that statement. However, most Singaporeans have long felt that the PAP ministers and MPs only parroting what the PM says. We know deep inside if Ngiam Tong Dow’s words hold any truth.
India complained to WTO that Singapore was violating CECA when Singapore said it would curb the inflow of foreign workers into Singapore after much pressure from the public.
However in reality we do not know if the government is doing the reverse by bringing in even more quietly. Or else, how are they going to fulfill the 6.9 million population plan if they truly intended to curb the influx of foreigners? The government also has a ‘remarkable’ track history of losing control of the car population when they tried to control it by issuing COEs. COEs are supposed to control Singapore’s car population, but the car population has exploded with a 3% annual increase. So, it is not a surprise for them to lose control again regarding the influx of foreigners while trying to ‘curb it’.
Ordinary Singaporeans are merely economic digits to Lee Hsien Loong and he will not allow any issues to jeopardize the multi-billion dollar investments of our sovereign funds and the GLCs in India.
Finally, due to PAP’s elitist mentality, they are too stubborn to admit their mistakes and they will dismiss the facts as nonsense. I don’t think I need to elaborate further since we have all witnessed the kind of ‘official replies’ for all the government’s major screw-ups from 2012 to 2013.