This article first appeared here on 21 May 2010.
It was a roaring Singapore before the financial crisis hit in 2007 and everyone felt that this was the right thing to do.
There was also full employment and no one paid the matter any attention as all along foreign workers have worked alongside us all this while.
No one also really knows how many foreigner imports will be let in until they saw the congested trains and swarmed shopping malls. Singapore is not the same again after 2008…
To the the employers, it is almost like receiving a big ang pow from the government without having to do much. Some I know went through their headcount immediately to see who they can replace with S-Pass work permit foreigners.
Those locals workers that earn alot through their years of service and experience were targetted for replacement. Unfortunately, the floodgates were still open when the financial crisis hit us in 2007 with adverse repercussion. Many have been replaced by foreign workers when the financial crisis hit us in 2007. By then, lowering labor cost becomes a very real issue and having foreigners become almost a must-have agenda on every employers’ to-do list. If not, the business may just sink.
Most businesses can only have a foreign worker quota of 25% of the company’s total workforce. However, companies in the marine or construction sectors can have a higher quota due to their industry type as Singaporeans tend to shy away from such menial work.
However, we have heard by now how the local companies work their way around the foreign worker quota system by artificially implanting local workers in their company. They are merely phantom workers, even paid CPF monies in their account and are used as a headcount so that more foreign workers can be employed. Thus, in some restaurants, it is not surprisng to see many foreigners working with no local workers in sight.
By now, you would have hear of someone being replace by a foreign worker. It could even be yourself reading this article right now. The after effect of globilisation? Don’t count on it…
Let us look at the eight reason why our local bosses will always hire foreign imports over our own locally-bred PMETs:
To the employers, cost is the number one factor when they run a business. and this could not be disputed. So when the government sets up a sytem whereby the boss can hire cheaper foreign imports base on a quota system, you can understand why he will grab it with both hands. Many are counting how many foreign workers they can bring in base on the type of business that they are in and the number of current local workers under their payroll.
S-Pass work permit holders only requires a base salary of $1800 plus levy and no CPF. The levy fee varies with specific industry and average around $200 per month payable to our government. It is not surprising to note that the S-Pass work permit visa fee is a huge cash cow for the government during these few years. Several hundreds of millions of dollars in visa fees must have been paid to the government by now.
Most S-Pass work permit visa, more importantly, also comes with the promise that the employers will help them get their coveted permanent resident visa. To third world countries’ citizens like India and China, Singapore is a dream country to move out to and gain a steady foothold on. It will be foolish if the person does not grab the golden opportunity even though the offer salary is only $1800.
You can also imagine how much a company can save if he can replace just five local staff with foreigners who earns a salary of $1800 each. Most local university graduates command a starting salary of at least $2500. The costing effect is just too much to ignore here.
During the recent recession, I heard of many companies replacing their local staff with foreigner ones. No job is spared and there is no mercy here. Now you can understand why the locals are not opening embracing our foreigner counterparts with open arms. I am actually amazed that there is no reported arts of violence against foreigners in our country yet. In Australia, foreigners are reportedly been attacked as they are deemed to steal away the locals’ jobs.
2. Better Worker
To the employer, Singaporean workers though articulate and smart, sometimes talk back too much. They tend to argue back especially if they have work long and gain a good standing with the rest of the staff.
The Singaporean worker also likes to job hop for the slightest reason. When they want a salary raise and could not get it soon, they will start to look around. When they are most needed, they may also file in their resignation letter the next day. Worse of all, they often don’t come cheap.
The foreign worker will not have such issues. They will just come in and simply work as if their life depends on it.
3. Foreign Connections
I actually heard from some bosses how they try to benefit from the foreign workers’ business connection back home. This company may be exploring overseas business ventures and will not mind having his office staffed with foreign workers of a few nationalities. Thus, foreign workers with solid working experience in their own countries are held in high regard here esspecially for companies who are starting to explore overseas ventures. It makes sense to have a Indian staff working in your office when you are trying to do business in either Calcutta or New Delhi.
4. Scams and schemes
One of the worst offspring of the whole foreign worker saga is the exploitation of work permit visas issued by our Ministry of Manpower (MOM). Any registered companies have access to a certain quota of worker permit holders. What we are witnessing is perhaps the largest human trafficking scam that we have seen in modern days. The most frustrating thing is that it is all supposed to be legalised and legitimate.
Construction companies with a higher foreigner worker quota were set up almost overnight with the main aim of fleecing foreigners to come and work here at very high premium agent fee (between $5000 to $8000). Many foreigners borrowed from loan sharks back home to accomplish their dream of coming here to make a pile to bring home with them. Due to the high exchange rate, what they earn here in a year can only be earned in ten years back home. Singapore lures even though the job is labour-intensive and sometimes dangerous. Many construction workers died building our infrastructures which we boasted.
Hundreds of millions of dollars changed hands when bogus construction companies with no job availability brought in thousands of workers and housed them in shanty squatters. Many worked less than a week in a month if they are lucky. The scheme made instant millionaires out of the shady business owners who are out to exploit the foreign workers right under the eyes of MOM.
I also heard of a restaurant owner who could issue S-Pass work permit to any foreigner who meets all the criterion issued by MOM. The problem is he will not pay out any salary for the first year though it is in the contract as he pays for the worker’s levy, board and lodging (normally four to a HDB room) and other administrative costs. I heard and confirmed with a few other business owners that this is the acceptable contractual terms for any foreigner on our coveted S-Pass work permit. Restaurants are the main culprits of this unethical practice as they come in by the thousands hungry for work and a better future.
Employment agents who bring in foreigner workers for employers also make a pile when they collect high incentives from both the workers and the employers’ side. This almost sidelined the local workers from the employment scene.
It is almost unbelievable that such errant employment practices could happen right under our government nose! It is only recently that the government has hauled up a few of such errant agents and employers for persecution under the law when hundreds are already flouting the law the past few years.
5. Companies with foreigners seem hip
Local small and medium companies staffed with local employees all along now can seize the opportunity to improve their work force by injecting some foreign manpower. Thinking that foreign means better, they target slackers or high earning PMETs and replace them with foreign workers.
In Singapore, previously, foreign workers either means manual workers such as domestic maids or construction workers or the high-end expats that earn tens of thousands of dollars. There is hardly any in-between until the S-Pass work permit comes into the picture few years ago to meet the shortfall in workers here. That present almost instant competition for the average Singaporeans.
Unfortunately, I have heard of companies with foreigner imports regretting their new prizes as they fail to impress with their work performances and know-how. Cheap does not mean better it seems.
We all know by now that the huge influx of foreigner workers is a huge national plot by the government to artificially inflate the dwindling population of our country. The intended country’s target is 6.5 million population. One in three of our population eventually will be a foreigner.
Businesses from government linked companies (GLC) to small and medium companies (SME) have no choice but to compliant. I am sure that big companies have a certain foreigner quota to fill even at the expense of locals losing their jobs.
I knew of GLC not renewing contracts of local workers just to fill in their foreigner worker quota. High end workers are also not spared the foreigner chop. I knew of a architect with a master degree in architecture who has to go as her contract was not renewed. She has to hand over her job to a Indian archtect. She is now working in China and may not want to return to Singapore anytime soon. When our local citizens have to give up their jobs to their foreigner counterparts so that the population growth is seen to be on target, something is definitely wrong here.
Migration among the local population is also seen as the highest during this five-year period in view of the drive by our government to step up foreign imports. It is strange that the locals are leaving the richest nation in the region. It goes to show that economic prowess may not be everything.
The way the government bulldozed its way to boost up the population growth may result in serious repercussion in the future. Social crime is on the rise and many Singaporeans now prefer their children not to return home too late at night. They are also advised not to loiter in areas that contain foreign enclaves. Integration programmes may have come too late now.
7. Political Agenda
Of course, there is the rumour that the government wants to fill up our population with foreign-born citizens so that when elections ar here, they will pledge allegiance with the one that provides for them.
I find this reason somewhat difficult to believe.
All along, the government enjoys almost a clean sweep of the seats except for two. There is no reason for the government to desperately bring in hundreds of thousands of foreigners yearly so that they can win the next election. Moreover, the government could not arm twist their new citizens to vote for them even though they have provide them the citizenship rights. So this theory does not hold water for me.
8. Forming Allegiance With China and India
It is not surprising that the foreigner imports are mostly from China and India. These two countries are known to be the super powers of the near future. They will dominant the world’s economy and Singapore wants to be on right terms with them now.
By importing workers from these two countries, we have formed a close allegiance with these two countries and hopefully there will be business ties in future. Already, I have heard of how Indian businesses flourishing here as a result of their ability to hire their own kind to work with them. If not, they will prefer not to set up shop here. Some nationalities just could not work along well with workers from other countries.
It is also seen as a bilateral advantage if our country can provide jobs to other countries’ citizens in this tough economic condition. It is for this reason that within Asean, Singapore is highly regarded. When their own country could not provide enough employment to their own citizens, in step Singapore with offers of hundreds of thousands of jobs. The only problem is that for every job given out to a foreigner, it is one loss for our local kind.
The government has promised to slow down the intake of foreign workers in the near future to appease a furious local population. However, the more than one million foreigners already in our midst has robbed the locals of much space and employment. Many are still jobless or under-employed. It may not take long before we witness incidents of violence against foreign workers who are seem as snatchers of what that are rightfully ours.
Written by: Gilbert Goh