Sunday, September 27, 2009

"We Prefer Non-Singaporeans..."

I'm sure many of you have seen this recruitment ad for a small electronics firm in Singapore. If you're the boss of a small company with thin margins, what do you do to survive?
4 years ago, I had to get a custom made electronics test tool for something I was working on. It was a relatively low tech device but had to be custom made because nothing on the market had the features I needed. I sent the specifications to a number of companies to see if they can build it and a few gave quotations for it. One of the companies gave a quotation that was much lower than the rest. Before I gave the company the job, I decided to pay them a visit to check if they understood the specifications well and were able to build it. The small company was located at an industrial park. When I got there, the sales person, a Singaporean assured me that they have "no problem" delivering the product on time.....but he had "no idea" about the design. I told him I needed to talk to the engineer building it. He took me to the engineer who was located in a small corner of what looks like a small fatory who 10 workers (from China?) making cables. The engineer was a young man in his 20s from China. I spoke to him for about 2 hours to make sure he had a good understanding of what was needed. It took 2 hours because his English was quite bad and my Mandarin was not good. After the 2 hours, I was quite confident he was able to get the job done. The Chinese university he attended equipped him with all the basic skills to do the job - this is sometimes missing in Singapore because we try to produce people for research. He was a friendly chap and had pictures of his pretty wife and kids on his table. He had been in Singapore for 2 years but his wife was looking after his kids in China. It took him about a month to build the test tool. The price I paid for it was somewhere around the starting pay of Singapore engineers so his pay has to be much lower for the company to make money out of it. There are probably hundreds if not thousands of companies like this one dependent on foreign workers/talents for survival. The Singaporean sales person and the boss is probably happy to have these foreign workers because without them, they may not be profitable.
The reality is China produces something like 3 million graduates a year. You can fill almost every job in Singapore at all levels with Chinese workers (not counting the Indians, Vietnamese, Malaysians etc). These workers from developing countries are happy to come here because the income they make here is so much higher than back home. So what is going to happen to Singaporean workers? Can they upgrade their way to a better life? Keep the foreigners out? Is a large segment of our society doomed to have a far lower standard of living than what they have today?
Few Singaporeans will disagree that some level of foreign influx is needed. Nobody can argue with that but the size of the influx can vary from zero to letting every business who wants hire foreigners do so without quota and limits. What is the right level? The right level is the level which will benefit most Singaporeans in the long run i.e. sustainable....hmm but this still doesn't answer the question. Many will say that the PAP govt has already gone overboard with its policy - that is why they are talking about ' calibrating' it. The sure sign that we have gotten it right is when we see income rising and the income gap falling. Right now the influx is so high, they are introducing competition faster than we can prepare for the competition. ...not just for jobs but for housing, transport & medical services. The resentment is building up and the PAP govt will find it hard to convince people it has done the right thing for the past 10 years with regard to its FT policy.
The story I told earlier illustrates the dependence of many companies have on cheap foreign workers. Suppose the govt restrict the numbers - what is going to happen? The boss will be forced think harder how to move up the value chain and invest in something with higher margins and lower dependence on cheap labor. He might choose to move to his operations to Vietnam where the cost is lower, ...if he does that, he will probably still keep his Singaporean sales guy to deal with his Singaporean customers so the only jobs lost are those going to foreigners in the 1st place. By moving, he frees up the place he rents and help to the rent in Singapore down so that other businesses can emerge given the costs are lower. If we do nothing and stay highly dependent on cheap foreign labor we will lock on to an economic trajectory that can only result in a lower standard of living for a large segment of our people. The PAP govt put us into this vicious cycle ...but we are not to sure they are able to get us out.
A resentful citizenrySingaporeans are not annoyed by their arrival, but the overwhelming numbers and sometimes having to play second fiddle to them. By Seah Chiang Nee.Sept 26, 2009

AN ELECTRONICS firm that advertised last week for a “preferably non-Singaporean” engineer has added fuel to a worsening controversy in this migrant city.
It particularly stipulated that “permanent residents are welcome” to apply for this “mid-career job (salary negotiable)”.
A copy of the advertisement found its way onto the web.
Applicants should have a diploma or a relevant trade certificate, with 3-5 years’ work experience, and “preferably non-Singaporean (PR welcome),” it added.
This provoked strong reactions from Singaporeans who are already upset at the large number of foreigners allowed to work here.
One asked if such discrimination is legal. “This sort of ad would have landed this company in heavy trouble in most developed states,” he added.
Another writer said: “Now we know where we stand. The policy has downgraded Singaporeans to below foreigners.”
Archilles said: “I feel left out by my own government, which is desperately trying to attract foreign talent (and) overlooking our own ‘local talent’. It’s sad, very sad!”
A similar storm broke some years ago when another company told a fresh Singaporean graduate during a job interview that his chances were slim if he had to report for annual reservist duty.
“We prefer a foreigner who has no such obligations,” the executive had added. Besides, they are much less costly to hire.
The reservist withdrew his application in disgust.
This is not just another act of public whining. The fact is many Singaporeans are no longer sure about their own role or entitlement in society.
In recent years, the rate of entry has increased sharply as the economy flourished. Every year some 100,000 foreigners have been arriving, putting pressure on what was already one of the most competitive and over-crowded cities in Asia.
The controversy couldn’t have come at a worse time when the country is emerging from a severe downturn and the people’s uppermost concern is getting – or retaining – their jobs.
Last month Seagate (worldwide: 10,000 workers) moved out its manufacturing capacity, retrenching some 2,000 workers. “It is difficult to imagine the impact of Seagate’s loss on our economy,” said commentator Harrison Goh.
Its departure, he added, may have marked the end point of Singapore’s involvement in the global manufacturing market.
“It spells a deepening crisis that most Singaporeans may not yet fathom, thinking that the PAP government has a ready solution.”
It is within this context that the unpopularity of the open door policy becomes apparent.
Political leaders are now working hard to reassure embittered Singaporeans that their interests would always come first.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced last week that his government would reduce the inflow of foreign workers to maintain the “tone” of society. He gave no numbers.
At the same time, his Community, Youth and Sports Minister assured polytechnic students: “You have a birthright. Everything we do is for your long-term benefit. Foreigners are here to help make Singapore more viable and competitive.”
The other side of the coin is equally stark.
With 1.28 babies per couple, Singapore’s birth-rate is one of the lowest in the world and threatens its long-term survival.
Singaporeans are also ageing rapidly, which may require young people to pay higher taxes to look after them.
Both defects are already being felt in a manpower-short economy, which requires immigrants to correct, according to officials.
“Companies have been coming to us to ask ‘where are the workers, we can’t get them’,” a government official said.
Singaporeans, being descendants of immigrants themselves, have never been antagonistic to the presence of foreigners here – until now.
What they resent is not their coming, but the overwhelming numbers, which they feel are threatening their jobs and education opportunities.
They are also angry with uneven policies that benefit foreigners more than locals, especially national service (compulsory two years) and the subsequent annual reservist call-ups, a burden not borne by foreigners.
Permanent residents are exempted, but their children are not.
Not having to meet reservist call-ups and cheaper wages are powerful attractions for employers to hire foreigners, particularly in a weak economy.
Complaints have increasingly come from older or mid-career Singaporeans who have been replaced by lower-cost younger workers from China or India.
The foreigners, hungrier and without family responsibility here, generally work longer hours for less pay – something that married Singaporeans with a home mortgage to pay cannot possibly match.
A small industry has risen to recruit them in large numbers – as indicated by a recruitment agency, with this advertisement: “Do you find it difficult and expensive to hire local staff? Why not consider hiring foreign talents?”
Claiming it was licensed by the Manpower Ministry, the agency said that it had recruited thousands of workers from China, India, Vietnam and Malaysia for Singapore firms in the past five years.
Every time such an ad appears, it cuts into the popularity of the government, which won 66.6% of the popular votes in the 2006 election.
Several months ago, the government ordered its election machinery to prepare for a snap election in case one is called.
With the improvement of the economy, it is widely expected that it will take place next year, instead of 2011 as scheduled. The public discontent against massive immigration promises to be one of the hottest campaign issues if it happens.
This intensity of public feeling has been too sensitive to be reflected in the traditional media, which has toned down the coverage.
On the Internet, however, where Singapo-reans can air their grievances, the mood is more sombre. It probably requires more than mere government assurances to placate.
(This was published in The Star, Malaysia today)


Anonymous said...

And now many jobs required a recognized degree, below 35 years old.

We are a stranger in our own land.

Anonymous said...


There is not real distinction benefits for Singaporeans and that of foreigners, in fact many aspects are in favour of them.

My Engineering firm recently hired a China young chap who was previously an attached student. He is so grateful for the job and our garhmen. He also say millions of graduates in China are jobless and will grab anything comes along.

We see our youngsters here sometimes too picky as well. Perhaps we are too comfortable. One day we will all be pushed aside by these foreigners in our own land.

Anonymous said...

"One day we will all be pushed aside by these foreigners in our own land." Yes... and many thanks to our elites gahmen - pieces of bull-shit.

Anonymous said...

The govt says we must hire more FTs because businesses being mobile, will leave if we can't lower their costs.

Govt also forget that citizens are mobile. If govt does not take care of citizens, citizens will uproot and leave. Citizens will not take up arms when Malaysia or Indonesia invade.

Citizens will simply abandon a country whose leaders feel that they owe a greater obligation to FTs and their own pockets, than to the needs of their fellow citizens.

Anonymous said...

Vote out the PAP. We are becoming endangered. I think the situation is getting worse and worse. It used to be just the HR people showing you face and telling you they can get a FT instead of you. Now they are explicitly advertising for non-Singaporeans. Btw good news...

DanielXX said...

Actually the example you quoted is a good reason why we SHOULD get foreign talent. But only those that can fill the gap in our competencies and complement us rather than substitute us.

There was this yellow pages rule: garment will not look to compete in services which can be found through private companies in the yellow pages. how about similar rule for foreign talent: no foreign talent in jobs which can be filled by locals, with certain exceptions like the dirty, difficult and the dangerous. I'm sure there're such rules like this now but are they being enforced tightly or are they being simply paid lip service?

Anonymous said...

Previously, the older workers are being discriminated because the excuses were younger workers are more energetic and have learned newer technologies.

Now, all Singaporeans are being discriminated because we are too expensive to be employed. Thanks to the government policy of opening the floodgate to foreigners. Property prices are now too expensive for middle incomer earners. Cost of living has shot up, thanks partly to the 7% GST.

The public has voiced their concerns, but PAP has ignored us and treated us like we are second class citizens. If we still think one-party system is good for us, then good luck to all of us.

Anonymous said...

The main beneficiaries of the foreign talent policies are the Government and Civil Service whose jobs are protected from foreign competition and whose pay is tied to GDP and tax revenue and not the welfare of Singapore Citizens.

Anonymous said...

Actually DanielXX, it's just a matter of time before it reaches the PMET...

I'm sick and tired of the PAP. Just look at the survey by UBS. It is found that wages have stagnated and costs have increase. This is, as expected, vigorously refuted by our dear MPs. These people have no heart and no conscience for the everyday singaporean feeling the heat of the squeeze. Can't wait for them to burn in hell...

Anonymous said...

I say we collate a list of companies that discriminate against Singaporeans and circulate them in the internet. Singaporeans boycott these companies - don't buy their products! Hit them where it hurts!

First to add to the list:
Ektronics Pte Ltd

DanielXX said...


The UBS figures are illuminating and from a third party. For a bunch of bureaucrats who have always preached about the importance of statistics above all, I'd like to see how they can ignore or explain away these headline numbers.

Anonymous said...

The PAP got some things very right.

What is it? This is as follows:

1. Ensure there is a weak opposition by sueing those who try to be funny. Harass them or maybe put them under ISA if necessary.

2. Have GRCs so the opposition will have a hard time forming a team, besides getting a minority candidate.

3. Take care of 66% of the population well. Get new citizens if possible.

In this way, they can be assured of 98% seats every election.

Then they can introduce and try all kinds of policies without any repercussions. And pay themselves millions too. Legitimately!

Brilliant, isn it? But unfortunately can only be applied in little red dot. Or else other countries' gahmen would have copy PAP already.

Anonymous said...

Ensure there is a weak opposition by sueing those who try to be funny. Harass them or maybe put them under ISA if necessary.

If you look at these two, I am afraid that the next to become bankrupt is Kenneth Jeyaretnam.

They are not going to be afraid of taxi drivers uncles that Chiam See Tong field in the GRCs as they definitely won't represent a threat. The are afraid of quality opposition especially one that has the qualification to take over as prime minister if the party wins.

Anonymous said...

To boycott a co tt favour ft, then we got to boycott almost every co in s'pore.

The bosses are sandwiched betw labour cost n major cost esp rental n utilities. The former can be reduced but the latter are mostly monopolistic and can't be reduced. U can only see rising trend.

The solution is to have min glc involvement in local biz n let free market set the price. Only then the bosses can balance d various cost component.

Every small co bosses r trying 2 survive n not talking ab big profit n exploitation of workers

Anonymous said...

Let's all get together and sing the NTUC song, "Upturn the Downturn"!!

Lim Leng Hiong said...

People, people, don't be too angry.

While trying to double-confirm and triple-confirm that they will win again this round, the government is about to make a critical error that will result in a big loss in the coming election.

I'm not sure if they can see the problem. Probably they are already aware of it but consider it too small and too boring to be important.

If they actually make the mistake (oops!) then they will become their own worst enemy.

Just relax and watch their next step, this will become very interesting soon heh...

Anonymous said...

Lucky, I agree with you that the PAP govt has dig us such a deep hole which I don't believe they can dig us out it in the short/medium term.

Where initially, it was foreign workers for jobs shunned by Singaporeans, it has now developed into a mindset where foreign workers are preferred.

Almost all businesses be it retail, construction, F&B, IT, etc are so dependent on foreign workers to drive cost down in order to turn more profit for the business owners.

If the supply is reduced drastically, will many of our businesses continue to turn a profit ? Will Singaporeans, suffering under the high cost of living, be willing to take up the slack at those wages ? I don't think so.

I also don't think an evolution of policies will dig us out of this deep deep hole. What we need is a revolution in policies.

Alan Wong said...

Our million-dollars PAP Ministers are fast turning PAP into People's Arrogant Party instead of a real People's Action Party for the people.

Today's Shit Times showed our PM Lee Hsien Loong & MP Lee Bee Wah in AMK constituency celebrating the coming Mooncake festival, oblivious of the hardships faced by Singaporeans especially the retrenched & unemployed.

Shall we target our next election by kicking out these 2 bochap PAP leaders our of AMK constituency as a message to PAP that "Enough is Enough"?

Sylvester Lim said...

Anon 09.36, it has already affected PMETs.

Sylvester Lim said...

My Paper link 24 Sep 09

Lim Leng Hiong said...

Thanks for the link, Sylvester.

When both qualifications and work experience count for nothing, and when you have the best job opportunities in Singapore if you are a young NON-Singaporean - citizens are trapped in an impossible situation.

Anonymous said...

"The reality is China produces something like 3 million graduates a year."

Well, by last year, the figure has jumped up to 6 million...

Anonymous said...

I think this blog and most possibly some others social-political blogs are on the government radar - the advertisement is changed to Singaporeans / PRs / Malaysians are welcome to apply.

Take a look at it,

But don't bother to apply and spend money on transport to go for interview, most probably will hire PRs at the end of the day.

Anonymous said...

If business cost, housing cost n others were not so high here, I am sure SME do not mind employing local workers. But who indirectly pushes up our costs of living, making us uncompetitive in our own country?

sgcynic said...

Sad isn't it? To be discriminated against and BE a second class citizen in our own country. And to know that it'll only get worse.

Anonymous said...

I say we vote them out real quick. Don't waste any more time. If they win this time round, we may be diluted to 40% by the next election - it's going to be harder to vote them out.

Anonymous said...

The Government makes its money from rental of offices and factory spaces or land sales to build them and from foreign workers' levy. Employers make their money from lower cost of employing foreign workers with the blessing and assistance of the Government.

Singaporeans are the ultimate losers. Some are deprived of places in the local universities by foreign students whose study are subsidised by their tax dollars. To add insult to injury, these foreign students are here for the next three years after graduation to compete with them for the same jobs, with all the distinct advantages now openly preferred by employers.

Singaporeans, please wake up. The Government is pushing you under water slowly and surely. Do something right by the next election or risk the reality of getting submerged into oblivion.

Anonymous said...

Felt surprised garmen remains silent on many of these hot issues like F.T., housing, joblessness for 35+ above and only 'hints' we got are from ST.

Perhaps there are no ready solutions, but why wait till election comes to address them? I have talk to many people and generally they say the future here bodes ill and worse when the Casinos start operating.


Anonymous said...

Although I like racing, I hate Singapore GP. I know I am eating sour grape, but I hate it when these cops block out the entire central city area, for only a small group of people to have fun, and dun even allow me to peek thru a hole on the canvas, while on the other hand this fucking gov ask me to sacrifice this and that for the country. If you r hosting a private party, pls host it somewhere remote. 80bucks for a walkabout on raceday... great inconvenience for sinkies and great fun for foreigners.

Anonymous said...

Make me think, maybe it is better to get my HK PR then come back. Then in resume don't even mention Singapore Citizen, say HK PR. Have to stay in HK for 2 more years then.

Rare Truth said...

i believe this is only tip of the iceberg.

if sporean cannot wake up to this, it's a hopeless nation.

Anonymous said...

FTs are taking our jobs, pricing affordable homes out of our reach, depriving Singaporeans of Uni places, and employers now openly want non-Singaporeans.

Any decent newspaper would have covered this hot social issue in great depth.

But our Straits Times has no credibility. It will not cover this issue not unless LKY gives the greenlight. And if it covers this issue, the ST will be sure to say how good FTs are, how dependent Singapore is on FTs, and how wrong Singaporeans are to disagree with LKY's wisdom.

Of course, the journalists and editors at ST don't face the threat of being replaced by cheap journalists and editor FTs from China or India or Phillipines.

Anonymous said...

there is no other way out of all this shit except to immigrate.

Anonymous said...

We must unite and vote out the tyrants and reclaim our country. Spread the word! Tell your friends all to vote for opposition!

Anonymous said...

On the one hand, we have:
Singaporeans and dogs strictly prohibited

On the other hand, we have:
Count On Me, Singapore!

Is it not clear what to do? I don't know wtf those 66.6% are thinking! said...

Hi Lucky

Lets narrow down to education aspect to examine the advantage of PRC.

If we look at the maths and science text book of PRC, HK and Taiwan pre-tietiary, it is in fact 1.5- 2 years more advance than us.

When they came to our Uni on PAP scholarship, they easily beat all locals bagging most of the 1st class honors in engineering school alone.

MOE exerbate the situation by teach less learn more, reducing pre-tietiary syllabus and all their bullshit.

With 1st class honor, even PRC is going to take all our good jobs, post grad and MBA, as well as USA university research position.

We are facing a uphill challenge against the brightest PRC, and meanwhile our government equip us with 3rd class maths and scientific content.

This is an unequal playground. We will definitely loose out. said...

I have knew Singapore students (scholar calibre) enrolling in local Uni engineering, but failed to get 1st class honor.

They should have gone to US or Australian Uni.

I believe our education would eventually plays a part in our demise.

USA has been employing PRCs and Indian to filled up its science and engineering post not because it do not have talent, but because USA failed to equip its pre-tietiary students with the skills.

That got to do with vested interest groups in education guarding the status quo.

Anonymous said...

Beside the influx of low cheap cost labour from the third world country , there are the riches who wanna to use the friendly citzenship policy as a platform to gain access to the west . They bring their billions and zillions over , the hot influx of $$ will drive the cost of living high . Right now ,We can see the property skyrocket like nobody business . In essence , they are pulling the lowest and the highest social fabric longer and longer and longer till maybe very soon middle-income class is very hard to define . said...

Our education system are not to impart character and knowledge.

We have developed into a multi-tiered system of elite and government school. Each receiving different lesson content and are expected to compete on the same A level paper.

The children of our elite class are never that academic diligent as those PRCs, Taiwan and HK. Of course, our elite never want to stress their children hard and prefer to give them a balance life.

If we look at our syallabus, we are 1.5-2 years behind.

Eventually, these elite children are shipped off overseas.

Of course, they gain in having more exposure and prestige Uni that enables a good career.

But also if they stay, they would face the same cruel destiny as the plebians to compete with those PRCs having high advantage. said...

I am extremely pessimistic about Singaporean students struggling against PRC academically.

First, since our elite is able to ship their kids abroad, they see no point to equip us during pre-tietiary years.

Our multi-tier education system serves to equip the patrician with most knowledge and to dilute the content of government school.

This is to enable to elite class children to win scholarship over plebians.

I see no reason PAP is going to academically equip us under such system.

The multi-tier system always enabel the elite scion to be equip with proper knowledge to compete better, and to be in leadership.

The NT students get kick by the system till his deathbed. The ST propaganda will tell NT kids to blame his wretch life for his stupidy and idleness.

Anonymous said...

Can we also replace all our ministers including PM and MM with FTs? I'm sure there will be many high calibre takers out there for a fraction of what we pay these bloodsuckers now. They may even do a better job at the risk of being fired for not performing. These ministers should really get a taste of their own medicine. Feel what it's like when their job security is at risk.

Onlooker said...

Sorry for being verbose.And I agree with Lim the Garment is clueless or they do not know how to solved this.

my point:
This dilemma will only extend because China/India cannot manage the explosion of skilled labour that they mass produced in hope of making the previous growth they had, grow faster.Note this process begin prior to the USA subprime (property) Crisis that is cause by the credit crisis.

Prior to flooding Singapore, they had also flooded USA and The EU with such workers too.But look the situation now.

EU have better control on the influx of migrant workers (including those from the EU) although these workers are also exploited.

The US have a massive cuts on the issuing of H1B for companies to persuade the company to employ US citizens.

They(EU and US/japan) are also better equip to to handle that situation because they have some form of Minimum wage.So that the employers cannot exploit the workers without cutting themselves in the process legally.

Now look at the situation in Singapore.

And I must repeat local Singaporean are not as choosy as the MSM would like to I said b4 there will always be people who are willing to do a job if the job can sustain their standard of living.

Singaporeans are systematically being removed from jobs that we have been doing well in the past.And The slump in electronic and manufacturing here will become worse when these labour learned all the trade secret and start doing it back in Their home country where material are abundant.
And it is no surprise that they are targetting Australia natural resource.

Setting up shop there (PRC,India) is even worse if no one from the parent company is there to safeguard the process(including software) and blueprints involved.

There are already breaches in companies that over relied on these workers but sometimes people have to learn the truth for themselves.

So it is not a surprise when the undercutting of price started here in Singapore.And the sad thing is it will spread like the situation in the hawker centers,And you will see ever increasing hawker fare with ever decreasing standard of food preparation.

PS The PRC students are overrated.IE they are hardly considered Talents in their home country.
some of those who are sent here by their own garment those are "Elites" like our own Elite "Brutal truth" Miss Wee.They do not have to compete with anyone their future is secure just by being the children of certain ranked official in their system.

Because they do not have as much financial and familial burden as a local Singaporean they can get better grades by simply being unaware of the situation back at home.This is the same for local students educated outside of Singapore.

Onlooker said...

^Correction: Elite Children whose millionaire parent can afford the fee yet put them on the scholarship.

Anonymous said...

For the millionaires, scholarships for their children are more like prestige.

and observed less common folks' kids are having scholarships year by year. This system should be improved to give more people a chance but NO, that is not meritocracy.

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Roger Lani said...

To boycott a co tt favour ft, then we got to boycott almost every co in s'pore. The bosses are sandwiched betw labour cost n major cost esp rental n utilities. The former can be reduced but the latter are mostly monopolistic and can't be reduced. U can only see rising trend. The solution is to have min glc involvement in local biz n let free market set the price. Only then the bosses can balance d various cost component. Every small co bosses r trying 2 survive n not talking ab big profit n exploitation of workers

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