It is very common for employers to recruit foreigners on a work permit or S-Pass for two years and at the end of the validity period, send them home and recruit a fresh batch of foreigners for the same tasks ('Don't discriminate against Singaporeans'; Tuesday).

By doing so, employers do not have to contribute to the Central Provident Fund for the employees, pay a yearly increment or bonus, plan a career path or provide employment benefits.

It is not surprising that Singaporeans are often passed over for such positions. Some employers even promise the foreign worker the maximum salary as indicated by the respective types of employment pass; and once the worker arrives here, he is told that a certain portion of the salary (in the form of a certain allowance and not part of the basic pay) will have to be returned in cash to the employer every month (to avoid leaving any evidence for subsequent investigations if a complaint is lodged).

The foreign worker has no choice but to accept the deal or be sent home. Although the levy and minimum salaries for the various employment passes have been raised, it is still cheaper to recruit foreigners than Singaporeans, and employers will continue to utilise the maximum quota of foreign workers allotted to them.

The average Singaporean worker is pickier about employment because he has more arduous responsibilities. The well-being of his family is at stake, compared with a foreign worker who is usually here alone earning a salary that will let his family back home live far more comfortably.

It is easy for employers to excuse themselves from recruiting Singaporeans by generalising that Singaporeans are not willing to take on low-level jobs.

But as long as employers continue to practice the 'cheaper' option, there is no way a Singaporean worker can compete with a foreigner. It is true that businesses exist to make money, and very few can survive on national pride alone (by recruiting citizens only). However, the Government has a duty to ensure there is fair play in the workplace for Singaporeans, and clearly, we need more bite in the current employment policies to ensure employers do not take advantage of such policies to disadvantage the Singaporean worker.

Edwin Lim