Monday, October 25, 2010

PMETs and cohesiveness in our society.

I'm overseas and getting access to the Internet is not so easy in some places. A few days ago on the 19 Oct 2010, I wanted to post something on the 4th anniversary of the Wee Shu Min incident [Link] but couldn't get access to the Internet. For many Singaporeans, that incident was a wakeup call to the widening class divide in our society. The incident started when a blogger Derek Wee wrote about his worries about how the intense economic competition resulted in structural unemployment among Singaporeans and how we end up with the most having the "most highly educated taxi drivers in the world" because it is so difficult to get a job when you're retrench above the age of 40. You should read Derek's post[Link] and think about what he said and you may find answers to several questions - why people don't have children, why people leave, why our society is losing its cohesiveness. Before I discuss these issues, further I will tell you a story.

4 weeks ago, I woke up late and had to take a taxi to get to work on time. I managed to catch a cab driven by a man in his early 50s. My brain must still be half asleep when I was in the taxi because I asked him a rather insensitive question - whether driving taxi was his part-time retirement job. He told me that 7 years ago, he went to work one day and was asked to leave because his performance was poor. He couldn't believe it because he had been with the company for 20 years and did not make any major mistake or had any discipline problems. He had been in his current managerial position for the 7 years doing the same thing year after year. He went to MOM to seek help and they told him there was nothing they could do and he would have to sue the company if he wanted his job back. There was no realistic chance of him winning a lawsuit given performance assessment is a subjective thing so he decided to move on and look for another job. After looking for 6 months, he couldn't find an employer who would hire him for the same type of job (probably due to age) so he ended up driving taxis - one of the few jobs still reserved for Singaporeans. While looking around for a job, he realised his former company probably decided to sack him because they could find someone younger to fill his job for 1-2K less pay per month. After years of annual increments, the company discovered they paid him "too much". However, instead of talking to him about a pay cut to help him keep his job, they decided simply to sack him. The company probably did not want to create potential "disgruntled employee" by keeping him around after pay cuts - finding an excuse to sack him then replacing him with someone cheaper was a lot easier to do under Singapore employment rules. There was extreme bitterness in his voice when he told me what happened to him.

The above story is just one example of how companies get rid of older workers. Given the floodgates are opened for younger and cheaper foreign labour, companies have the option not to keep older workers. In the past when the labor market became tight during the good times, companies were more willing to give older workers a chance. However, now that the floodgates are open and companies have access to a large pool of cheaper younger foreign workers, it is hard for older workers to get a job that makes full use of their skills and experience.

Strutural unemployment is just one of the problems in this ultra-competitive environment. The intense competition leads to a "take care of yourself first" mentality. The profit motive dominate the decisions of companies and the "hire and fire" without any social safety net and protection creates a constant sense of instability. People do not want to have children when they feel insecure. When you add this sense of instability to the rising income gap you get many people who are unhappy with the system. In addition to that, we have a group of elites who are groomed, protected in secure jobs, overpaid and are given the best opportunities available without facing the intense competition of the average Joes in our society. This is the source of intense resentment that broke out 4 years ago when the Wee Shu Min incident ignited hatred that spread beyond cyberspace. You can see this resentment everytime there is slip up by the political elites (YOG, Temasek Holdings losses, floods, Mas Selamat etc) - people just don't like the people running a system that makes life so insecure and tough for them. 4 years after the WSM incident and nothing has changed....Singaporeans understand nothing will change for them with the same people and system in place. The frustration will turn into action and we will see some of that in the coming elections.


Anonymous said...

How to help an older PHD holder to be UPGRADEd to a "TAXI DRIVER"?
That is a difficult task.

Anonymous said...

When the same thing happens to me, it was the tail end of my career so it does not impact me too much. But I worry for my kids on how on earth they are going to survive to pay for the out of the world public housing. They have all told me that they dont intend to get marry may migrate and so on.

Singapore used to be a very wonderful contry back in the 70s and 80s. Sometime in the 90s, the country changes and by now changes beyond recognition. The envirnment has created people who fighting for survival has a self preservation culture and you die your business culture. Very sad for the country from my view point.

geelo said...

In order to make Singapore employer friendly to attract more MNC's to our shores, the government has done away with many protection of workers rights especially when it comes to terminating older, long serving staff. Employers can easily terminate long serving staff in favour of younger and cheaper workers with almost no impact to the State (at least in the short term) because there is no social safety net for the unemployed in Singapore. Loyalty means nothing these days. Young people job hop at the drop of the hat for better pay. This is very disruptive and counter productive to any organisation. Older workers are let go because they are deemed too expensive. Many professionals with valuable work experience have or are considering migrating when they approach 40 in order to protect themselves and their families. These people take their experience with them and contribute to another country. The work environment is becoming very mercenary. Work has become grab as much as you can while you still have a job because you never know what will happen to you tomorrow. In addition, work for anyone who can pay you better as one's loyalty will not be remembered. In fact, in many cases, it is considered a weakness. The same attitude is also manifested outside work in the wider society. People are less caring not because they don't want to but because they can't afford to. The whole value system of the society has been turned on its head. I really hate to think this is the kind of society we are handing to our next generation.

Anonymous said...


This article is timely and I feel for the taxi driver.

Alan Wong said...

Incidentally, I am still wondering what good reasons does our PAP govt have in not allowing cabbies a choice to be their own bosses especially if they have the financial means to finance or purchase their own taxis ?

Why do they need to toil their sweat to earn the minimum rental first for their respective taxi companies before they see any leftover revenue for themselves ?

Is this not akin to a form of forced exploitation that they have to work to meet the profit margins and interest of taxi companies first and foremost before their own surivial ?

Does our PAP govt have any vested interests in seeing that cabbies don't own their own taxis ? Looks like our Transport Minister owes our taxi drivers a good explanation !

Anonymous said...

my kids are lucky, they will inherit my prized hdb unit.

sgcynic said...

Such a system comes about when the people who crafts the policies are shielded from the very system they crafted. In other words, they have no stake in really making the system work for the people.

Anonymous said...

The story in this article is nothing new. I hear 3 or 5 of such stories every week from friends, ex-colleagues, taxi drivers and family members. As long as 66.6% of zombie Sinkies keep voting for PAPies, things will only go from bad to worse. If not for you then for your children.

In the meantime, I just try to think for myself and refuse to go along with the propaganda or the mainstream. Immediately after fulltime NSF, I got myself downgraded out of reservist. 2.5 yrs of combat duties was enough sacrifice. This was back in 1994. Even in those days, I could see PAPies opening up opportunities for foreigners in terms of jobs and privileges without giving even a thought to citizens.

For the past 4 years, I've not paid a single cent of income tax. 10 years ago, I embarked on a tough journey to wean myself off a typical job or even being some PAPist model-entrepreneur. My average $100K annual income is purely thru trading on overseas markets in forex, options and futures. I refuse to get married, refuse to buy a overpriced car with COE. I bought a small freehold central condo during the SARS days. I even do my shopping either in JB or in Batam every fortnight just to avoid paying for shop owners' overpriced rentals and GST.

You may say I've become some bitter old scrooge. But I'm usually happy and light hearted, with a smile on my face, as I know that I don't need to depend on this country or this govt. I don't owe anybody anything and nobody owes me anything. If not for some of my family members, I would probably be staying in some remote places, maybe northern Thailand or Laos with a licensed AK47 for casual hunting. As long got broadband internet can already.

Anonymous said...

PMETs,at one time,not so long ago,they were considered our biggest asset,talents fr our own country,our own people.

Suddendly,one crazy man tot to himself,why is my country not lumber satu,I am lumber satu,har,must be we short of talents,bring them in.

Then the flood gate was opened,slowly it bacame a tidakl wave,many who served their country were sweeped away.It was typhoon LKY.

These are either very nice or very stupid people,as I know many,quite a lumber do not blame the government cahnge of policy,but accepted it as GLOBALISATION,blame Uncle Sam,Bill Gates,they told me.

Well,I think they are very stupid.But then again they and their families are the ones who suffer,wat to do?

PAP has the top world class propangada machine in the world!They truly deserve the support by those of my not so lucky,yet not so bright feellow citizens

DareToAct said...

Most people will agree that Singapore is run like a company.  Our cabinet ministers and senior civil servants are paid like corporate executives.  When Singapore Inc was having growth problem after the Asian financial crisis, our government stepped up their foreign talent strategy and "recruited" many to join Singapore Inc.  Those Singaporeans who lost their jobs due to the restructuring were urged to upgrade, retrain, redesign.  From what I can gather reading newspapers and other media, it seems like many "employees" of Singapore Inc are not finding it easy to cope.

Maybe the government can consider this: pay retrenchment benefits to Singaporean who wants to "resign" from Singapore Inc.  It allows those who think they can have a better life elsewhere to leave with a small sum of money (they deserved it as they have contributed to Singapore Inc's growth from 3rd world to 1st) so that they can settle better into their new "job". It is also good for Singapore Inc as the CEO can now spend time doing "unproductive" work like explaining policies to those who do not have the capacity to understand or worry about being fired at AGM.

It's a win-win, no?

Anonymous said...

Vote wiselee, vote for change, not $mall change. said...

I am a software engineer. Before, a plain basic degree in Electrical Engineering would qualify one for this job. Now I am seeing a high majority of my colleague having post-graduate degree and even couple of PHDs.

Couple with high tuition fee, I believe most investment in education, especially in engineering discipline would turns out to be negative value.

Recently I realized its now the medical profession undergoing similar debasement as engineering. PAP now start importing pinoys and India Ah Neh to our hospital-- All the meanwhile depriving many local 4As students a place in medical school.

The suppression goes further in business sector as well. Instead of giving gambling license to local and force foreigners to take up minority stake, PAP simply toss our license to Genting and Sands.

I think LKY is the ultimate enemy of every Singaporean

Anonymous said...

NO use blaming the PAP. Singaporean voted the PAP in and they deserve each other.
Don't believe? Lets see what we get after the next GE!

Anonymous said...

Maybe the PAP govt has the big picture.

And maybe it is this. For every PMET being replaced and ended up driving taxis, there may be many more PMETs who are doing OK and have no complaints. And together with other successful, wealthy, employed and contented people, they form the majority of the electorate. Hence cohesiveness in our society may not be so much affected.

A capable government like the PAP will create conditions to monitor and ensure that this will happen. And together with some electoral system that result in 50% walkovers, that's how elections are won and won with 98% seats.

Anonymous said...

"A capable government like the PAP will create conditions to monitor and ensure that this will happen. And together with some electoral system that result in 50% walkovers, that's how elections are won and won with 98% seats."
Hey, that sounds like the upcoming elections in Myanmar/Burma!

Anonymous said...

I fear the day will come when Ministry of Education starts firing senior teachers from the 1A2 to 1A3 ranks, and replace them with young, fresh teachers from NIE.

They are much younger, much more energetic than teachers who have taught for like 10 years or so. Experience is not such a valuable asset, as compared to youth, drive and energy to work long hours for months non-stop.

Most of us older teachers have families. We can't be spending that much time at work. And our salaries are usually 1.5 to 2 times as high as the young teachers.

Maybe the axe would fall on us next.

Anonymous said...

"I fear the day will come when Ministry of Education starts firing senior teachers from the 1A2 to 1A3 ranks, and replace them with young, fresh teachers from NIE."

Anon 25/10/10 20:07

Maybe not. Remember the PAP must ensure the majority is OK and happy. If they start to fire many in the civil service, this may start to affect the happy majority and hence their % vote in elections.

No govt will do something that can affect some of the happy majority that support them. Or else it will be a problem if it becomes happy minority.

Anonymous said...

So long as SG is preoccupied with survival, one should not expect much. Having to constantly justify one's place in the greater order of things can be a tiring / endless process. Hence the trend towards moving to other places.

Anonymous said...

someone I knew was forced to resign early fifty. was replaced by someone ten years younger, single and getting $2k less.soon will also be replaced by someone younger, cheaper and foreign. that will be the consequences for pursuing cheaper, better and faster = getting foreigners to do your job.

Anonymous said...

Nevertheless, our assets will grow with PAP.
The Best.

Anonymous said...

Ordinary Singapore must wake up and realise that the only way they can get change to improve their lives in Singapore is to vote for the oppositions.
If they don't do that nothing will change and the future for their children will be worst.
If more Singaporeans vote for the oppositions, then the pap will feel the pressure as their level of support decline. If say the pap popular vote decline to 51%, then I am very very sure the pap will listen to and act for the interest of ordinary Singaporeans.
Now with only 2 opposition mps, the pap don't need to listen to nor look after the interest of Singaporeans. They feel invincible and thus can be arrogant and ignore ordinary Singaporeans.
Vote Oppositions for a better future.

Anonymous said...

Yes I agree, more Oppositions in the Govt will send a clear message to PAP.

Anonymous said...

Prosper And Prosper

Anonymous said...

I read the wiki site about Wee Shu Min and read the profile of her dad... my big question is, other than having some fancy degrees and being employed as an executive, how rich are they? nothing more than overpaid employees in my view, lets say together with his MP pocket money, his directorship and his S.Technologies job, i would say his max would be 300k sgd per year? that hardly qualify him to be rich, he probably rank together with my half baked singapore private bankers that service me attentively. i have a term for these people who survive because they are servicing the likes of me, PARASITES. a value i impart to my young son.

I mean if you want to brag, you got to have it right? Lets not make the bar too high, i would say guaranteed income of 3million sgd and a liquid asset of at least 30million should be the minimum to call yourself the only the ministers would qualify to golf with me in spring city....but i rather enjoy a businessman company than a politician.

Anonymous said...

Until this resentment translates into votes against the system nothing is going to really change.

Anonymous said...


Singaporeans love being fxxxed by PAP.

They've voted for a dictator and helped him install his entire family in power for decades.

Do you think Singaporeans really want to vote PAP out?

We need foreign talents to save us.

PAP is madly handing out citizenships to these people right now. For the first election cycle or two, they may feel grateful to PAP.

But do you really think these new citizens from India and Philippines will tolerate being fxxxed by PAP forever?

By 2020, ERP will be $10 minimum. MRT fares will be $3 or more. COE will be $80,000 and above. HDBS will be $1,000,000 for your average 5-roomer. And those new citizen Pinoys and Myanmarese and Indians will be anxiously looking for schools for their kids.

I don't think they will take shit from PAP anymore. They'll probably vote their own into power.

Anonymous said...

thanks for reminding Singaporeans of this Most Infamous Daughter of Singapore, and i don't mean annabel chong...

it's true, what Wee shumin said and subsequently endorsed by the PAP mp wee something, or Ang mo kio grc, proves that the PAP's governing motto is always:

"You Die Your Business"

Vote Alternative Parties!

Kojakbt said...

And if you ask Zorro Lim about this, he will advise you with one word:


LOL! What a clown...

Kojakbt said...

Lucky, well, you can't really blame the businessmen. They are after all, into business for profit.

And also, it's about survival in the competitive marketplace too. When you have your competitors all using cheap FTs and thereby lowering cost and creating more profits for them to expand their businesses, you will be forced to do the same too.

Social considerations and social safety net are simply not the concerns of businesses. Rather, these are the responsibilities of the Government!

If the PAP's economic policy is to open our doors to allow businesses to exploit cheap FTs, it would be "daft" for businesses not to exploit. Tio bo?

Hence, the root cause of our problem currently is due to PAP's over-liberal FT policy. Come this election, I would urge the bros and sis to do the right thing. And that is, DO NOT GIVE PAP YOUR VOTE!

Kojakbt said...

Also want to share this fact with the bros and sis here.

Allowing cheap FTs here is one thing but closing a blind eye to allow bosses, middlemen, FTs to cheat the system is another!

From my observation, there is rampant cheating going on in the marketplace. Today, bosses can employ FTs for service sector. Typically, only S-passes ($1,800) are approved. However, S-pass FTs need to be degree/diploma holders and many of these FTs used fake degrees/diplomas, obtained with the help of the middlemen, to apply for S-pass. And surprisingly, MOM approves them all!

Also, the actual amount received by FTs is less than $1,800. Bosses use different means to minus sums of money from the FT's pay. And the worse is, every of these FTs who come here, pays $8-10K to middlemen in order to secure the job. Some of this money undoubtedly goes back to bosses as "rebates".

You don't get to hear about this in mainstream media but everyone in the industry knows about it!

Kojakbt said...

One of the culprits is Hans cafe. Go there to makan and talk to some of them casually. Very soon you will find out that those S-pass PRC fellas aren't even high school graduates, let alone degree/diploma grads! They've got absolutely zero knowledge in English even though they are supposedly to have studied some in their home country.

This can only mean 1 thing - they have faked their certs when applying for S-pass.

Anonymous said...

PAP will help those who help themselves.Vote wisely, vote for CHC.

Anonymous said...

In Singapore, if you are born wiht low IQ, you are screwed.

PAP is going to blame you for whatever misfortunate the society has force upon you. You are going to be labeled listless, stupid, incapable...etc

Anonymous said...

In God we trust. Tithe your way to the good life.
That's the way because PAP condones it. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Why isn't MOM checking the qualifications of each foreigner? Our main sources of foreign talents; china, India n Philippines, are all notorious for rampant corruption, dishonesty n cheating.

Anonymous said...

You need an incompetent regime to hire incompetent people.

Anonymous said...

Why isn't MOM checking the qualification of FTs?

1. There are too many of them. For every 1 approval, there are many rejected. Just how they decide who to accept and who to reject is a big question mark.

2. They just simply push the responsibility to agents and employers to ensure the qualification of FTs is true. Otherwise, they get the fine.

Anonymous said...

Singapore used to be a very wonderful contry back in the 70s and 80s. Sometime in the 90s, the country changes and by now changes beyond recognition. The envirnment has created people who fighting for survival has a self preservation culture and you die your business culture. Very sad for the country from my view point.

Kojakbt said...

>>Singapore used to be a very wonderful contry back in the 70s and 80s. Sometime in the 90s, the country changes and by now changes beyond recognition. The envirnment has created people who fighting for survival has a self preservation culture and you die your business culture. Very sad for the country from my view point.

The character of Singapore started to change when old fart got rid of all the PAP old guards and ran Singapore all by himself...

Anonymous said...

Google has taught us that being a professional and welfare friendly can promote cohesiveness and results for the company. Our government is professional, but hardly a friend to its citizens.

Anonymous said...

> Anonymous said...

my kids are lucky, they will inherit my prized hdb unit.

No they won't. The govt takes it back after 99 years remember? So your children will be scrambling for a way to pay for a $2 million dollar "public house" in their 50s.

Anonymous said...

Singapore is the land where only the fittest will survive. It is sad but this is the truth. This is African savanna but the background is a modern cosmopolitan. We need a change, definitely.

Anonymous said...

Singapore is run by exam-smart people for whom there is only one correct answer to a problem. This single right answer is (in descending order):
1) The MM's/PM's answer
2) The mininster's/perm sec's answer
3) The CEO's answer
4) The division head's answer
5) The dept head's answer

All others are wrong.

3in1 kopi said...

agree with Kojakbt.
to old fart, it is only cohesiveness within his familee and stooges that matters.

anon @ 11.14 is spot on.
and when in doubt, always refer to 1)

Anonymous said...

Your error lies in assuming that cohesiveness is a desired outcome.

Anonymous said...

everybody is blaming LKY, but all this started after LHL said "I am now king!"
The only thing I blame LKY for is putting a spoilt brat on the throne and then supporting every stupid tantrum after that - because he could never admit that he sold us a defective product.

Anonymous said...

Lucky you want to bet..the PAP will retain power on nomination day, Potong Pasir will go back to them and we will have only Mr Loh in Hougang(that too is a bit uncertain as many blocks have been demolished)
All this will happen because we are a bunch of gutless people who just grumble but never take action..

tax heavens said...

Wow! You are definitely a magician. I have always liked to know others feelings and thoughts, but I must say your article is one of the best I have read. And I suggest others to read it.
tax heavens

Anonymous said...

Cohesiveness You say!
Fat hope! In Sin it is each to his/her own, You die your bizness.
However, there is one party that's always able to work and act in pack and stay in power.
You know?
Sinkies will drown in sorrow except for the pack.

Anonymous said...

Geelo, to ├Ąttract MNCs to come here?

What about our attributes of good Telcom, Airport and Shipping, Banking, Finance, Inland Transport, Service Apartments, Budget Hotels and HDB & Private Housing?

Greatsage said...

Please wake up. Job security has extincted long ago. To survive in Singapore, you cant just depend on a single income alone. Be entrepreneur and rely on yourself.
Take care.


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