Was recently back in Singapore after being based overseas for many years. When I was abroad, I read many rants about the Government's 'Foreign Talent' policies online.
Felt then that people were complaining for the sake of complaining. Could not reconcile with all the anger and frustration until I landed back in my beloved Singapore. The online scenario painted by many an exasperated netizen held much truth.
Everywhere on the island is now much more crowded than before. Uncouth and anti-social behaviours by foreigners are more evident. The general level of cleanliness around the city has also dropped. General service standard and productivity have also dropped noticeably.
Beyond the physical deterioration, I have also observed a disturbing trend emerging. Singaporeans are being pushed out of the labour market by unfair practices across all job-levels. Blue-collared workers have their wages depressed and in some cases, even employment denied because the foreigner foreman chose his own countrymen over a deserving Singaporean worker. Entry and mid-level white-collared workers are denied deserving job-promotions and career-advancement opportunities because of unfair advantages that their foreigners colleagues enjoyed.
Even top level executive-positions are not spared as foreigner bosses/HRs/CEOs choose to bring in their own kind and/or network instead of hiring/promoting a deserving and in many instances, better-qualified Singaporeans. Heard plenty of stories from friends and head-hunters. A large oil & gas firm bringing in foreigners to fill regional management positions that capable local Singaporean managers could and would want to do. A Swiss bank parachuting executives from Zurich and Geneva into Singapore to fill management roles yearned by the local employees because the market in Europe is depressing now. A French company choosing a 60-year old French citizen with a mediocre track-record ahead of a top-performing Singaporean in his mid-40s to be the regional CEO.
Having lived and worked in different global cities, I have seen my fair share of discrimination in the labour market. American banks and financial institutions on TARP not allowed to employ non-Americans, companies in Europe are incentivised to only employ EU citizens, international banks in Japan only employs Japanese natives and even fluent-Japanese speakers are denied the opportunity to interview, only native-Spanish speakers will ever be employed in Latin America etc. These discriminatory labour practices that favour the natives are not unexpected. Afterall, it's their country and their rules. But, seeing deserving Singaporeans being discriminated in his/her own country is really shocking to say the least.
Singapore has always made meritocracy as one of our main pillars for nation-building and progress. It's a real shame that this value is being eroded by the relentless influx of foreigners, who valued kinship and people of their own skin-colour more. The Government, with its liberal foreign employment policies, knowingly or otherwise, become the perfect accomplice. This even despite the massive outcry from the populace during the GE2011, that prompted the Prime Minister to apologize on national television no less.
Alas, words are not backed up by actions. Worse, hard figures published recently showed the contrary as more foreigners are allowed to work in Singapore in the past year since GE2011. In Leadership 101, what is worse than incompetency is insincerity and betrayal. It's no wonder that this current Government is losing its credibility and whatever residual goodwill that 60.1% of the populace has decided to give it a last-chance to redeem itself.
So herein, I lay down the challenge to all Singaporeans. To stop being a keyboard warrior. Instead of ranting and complaining only online, take one step further to let fellow Singaporeans see the real challenges that the country is facing.
Ask fellow Singaporeans constructive questions to trigger their logical thought process:
- Government has always emphasized that we need more foreigners for the country to stay competitive and achieve higher GDP growth. Yes, the Singaporean economy has stayed very competitive globally and our GDP at US$56,532 per capita is the highest in the world, (US$5,300 more than second-placed Norway!) according The Wealth Report 2012. Several questions to ask. How have you personally benefitted from all these economic progress? And is this US$56,532 the median income for Singaporeans? If not, why is the Singaporean's median income at US$29,500 so much lesser than the mean GDP figure?
- Economic progress and high GDP growth have a very low correlation with the quality of life of the populace. So why does the Government keep on insisting on maintaining high GDP growth? Is the Government's raison d'être (reason for existence) to improve the people's quality of life or to achieve high GDP growth? Which is the mean and which is the end? So really who benefits from the high GDP growth?
- Government keeps on emphasizing that foreigners are needed to safekeep jobs for Singaporeans. Then why is that the case that 7 out of 10 jobs created in 2011 goes to a foreigner?
- Government keeps on saying that Singaporeans do not possess the necessary skill-sets for certain jobs that MNCs in Singapore need, so foreigners need to be imported. Ask the critical question that if we keep on importing foreigners, then how can Singaporeans ever be trained to have these skill-sets? And this argument become circular the next time round in the future. Since the MNCs do not take in and train local Singaporeans in these skill-sets, it'll forever use the lack of necessary skill-sets excuse to keep on demanding for the Government to allow more foreigners in.
- The official unemployment figure is 2%. How is this figure calculated? What is the under-employment figure for Singaporeans? What is the real cost to the nation of educating Singaporeans to such high international standards and have him/her under-employed because of unfair labour practice promulgated by foreigner bossess/HRs/CEOs?
- Why did the Government allowed in an addition of 1.5 million foreigners without adequate preparation of the transport and housing infrastructure? Complacency or incompetency? What's is the real cost to the country with such high housing cost? If people are spending a high proportion of their income on housing, the amount of disposable income left for other consumption and retirement planning would suffer. So what's the ultimate cost to the country in the long-term? And why is S$1.1 billion Singaporean tax-dollars used to increase the nation's bus capacity, subsidizing the 40% non-Singaporeans in the process?
- And the million dollar question (no puns intended). Have your life become better or worse off since the last GE?
There's an estimated 200 weeks more to GE2016. If everyone of us were to share with a different fellow Singaporean these perspectives every week till the next election is called, we could in all reach out to 4,000,000 Singaporeans (not physically possible because there are only 3.285 million Singaporean). Given that there will be overlaps and that there will be Singaporeans who will not be convinced and/or converted; it will sure make a difference in shifting the 60.1% majority that the current Government scored in the last election.
So make the difference today. Take action, ask constructive questions, make your fellow Singaporeans think and be aware.
Finally, I would like to state for the record:
I am not xenophobic, I just love Singapore and Singaporeans more.