I just don’t get it…
Why do local employers keep talking down on our own local workers?
Besides being accused of laziness, local workers are also choosy, don’t turn up for interviews and some even don’t attend work when terms are already agreed upon verbally over the phone.
What totally irked me is that they are citing isolated experiences of some bad hats and immediately pronounced that the rest of our Singaporean workers will behave the same.
I actually found it shamefulfor employers to speak so badly of our own people – even though its the truth.
Comparison of local and foreign workers
They also tend to compare our workers with foreign ones and of course sang the world of the latter ones.
I have told them that its unfair to compare local and foreign workers as we are here to stay and unused to working long hours as we have a family to attend to.
Most foreigners are singles and will even camp over night at the office if they have to for their future sake.
Many prefer to work here compared to Cambodia or Vietnam and won’t mind being exploited as they are literally jobless back home.
Some even felt that because they are willing to be exploited by local employers, they could stay longer in their jobs!
However, its true that Singaporeans workers are choosy over distance, pay and even job scope.
Some have even work for just a day and then disappeared without even wanting to collect their pay.
Nevertheless, its unfair to link just one rotten apple and call the rest the same?
Singaporean worker suddenly unproductive?
What happens to the most-productive tag we have for the Singaporean workers just a decade ago? Have they all disappeared overnight?
I remembered my office celebrated that world-best-worker announcement by having a buffet lunch but all this seemed so remote now.
I have written an article citing that Singaporeans workers now work the longest hours but remained the least productive in the world.
Perhaps the influx of unproductive foreign workers have caused our productivity to drop to a negative level since five years ago and show no signs of going up anytime soon.
Many Tuas companies I visited also complained to me that they could not hire Singaporeans because the main reason is distance – even though the pay is at least 20% above market rate.
I have persuaded some Singaporean PMETs to take up any available job offer at Tuas especially if they are jobless for more than a year.
The Tuas district probably needs a better transport infrastructure and sometimes only one bus plies the area frustrating many workers who have to work late at night.
I have a lady PMET who just quit from a job in Tuas because she has to work late every night and seldom left the office earlier than 9pm. She reached home at 10 plus mostly.
I also have the priviledge of visiting some MNC and SME recently and routinely faced the irate accusations from our local employers that our own workers are not hardworking, conscientious and can’t take work pressure.
One MNC even listed down in detail two local staff who resigned after working for less than six months with them.
Both were senior positions and the pay was not an issue.
I was wondering if they have kept a thick file recording the two isolated cases so they could provide proof to MOM that they have tried their best to hire Singaporeans but they could not stay long in the job.
So now they have to bring in a foreigner to take over the position?
Surely there must be some good capable Singaporean executives who are still working on in the company?
“How do you want us to hire Singaporean workers?” the director retorted in anger when he related the two cases to me.
However, they never want to discuss the resignation rate of foreign workers in their company and the way they reacted when the question was thrown at them suggests that it is also high.
Out of the 1400 staff they hired, only less than 15% are Singaporeans. The foreign legion consists mainly of Filiinos, Indians, PRC Chinese among others.
Why hire foreigner when a local can do the job?
It also broke my heart to see a Filipino receptionist at the helm when Singaporeans could do the same job.
Can’t the company find a Singaporean to do that front desk job?
I literally went home to cry at times after visiting some companies which consist predominantly of young educated foreigners occupying the whole work place.
You can count the number of local Singaporeans on the fingers of one hand for some companies.
Where are the Singaporeans? They must be all gainfully employed but yet I still receive daily emails from jobless PMETs…
Something is not right here.
I am sure that in many work places, Singaporeans remain the minority worker and sometimes they are being bullied by foreigners who form the majority of the work force at our private sector.
To add insult to injury, many local worerks have to take instructions from their foreign superiors.
It is no wonder that many of our fresh graduates prefer to apply for jobs from the civil service as at least they can work together with our own local people.
It takes alot of acceptance and adjustment if you want to click well with foreign workers from different nationalities.
From the feedback I gathered from employers and local executives, they tend to stick together according to nationality and sometimes conflict occurs if there is a operational hiccup.
If they resigned, they also do it together further hampering the operational work flow of a company.
My take is that if companies continue to over-depend on foreigners, they will be in for a rough time as MOM will continue to restrict the hiring of new foreign workers given the public displeasure at the scheme.
Singaporean-first hiring mentality
Moreover, I always believe in a Singaporean-first hiring mentality.
In Australia, employers tend to hire back their own people first before considering hiring foreigners even though they are citizens or PRs.
Call them patriotic or silly but we all know that Aussie workers are not as hardworking as Asians but local Aussie employers will not hesitate to hire their own people first without any reservation.
I have spoken to some of our own local employers on this issue and their attitude really bothers me.
“Its revenue first, Gilbert,” one told me straight in the face.
“To me, they are all workers. I don’t care if they are from Singapore, Malaysia, India, China or Africa. So long the worker is contributing to my bottom line I will hire him.”"
Perhaps, our government’s creation of a economical Singapore Inc has rubbed off on our local employers so much that no one now cares a hoot about who they hire so long the person can do the job.
They are not bothered even if the majority of their work force consists of foreign workers.
To our local employers, the workers are there to help them achieve their bottom line – nothing else.
I remembered vividly the piercing words of a local IT employer with a small strength of ten workers of which eight are foreigners – the incident always brought tears to my eyes whenever I thought of it.
“I only want to hire a Singaporean to make up for the numbers, Gilbert,” he told me frankly over coffee when I visited him in his small office.
He has emailed me asking for resumes of local Singaporeans and accepted my request to visit his office.
”The system is now no longer meritocratic. You can have the best degree from a first class university but cost is everything here.”
When he said those menacing words, my mind flashed back to the hundreds of jobseekers who came to see me for support over the past few years with their well-minted degrees from established universites – both local and foreign.
Of course, to any employer, making enough revenue to last another month or year is important but is there more to it than that?
He told me how employment agents have being pushing workers to him as most foreigners have to pay a fee to them for employment opportunities even before they have any confirmed job placement.
Many foreigners probably are on a 2-week holiday social visa but they are actually on the look out for possible work opportunities.
The easily-available work permits via our S-Pass and EP mean that foreigners can be hired within one or two months upon submission of their documents depending on the urgency of the vacancies.
I am unsure how the equation works out for the IT employer in the end but if employers decide to place revenue above everything else, there will come a time when foreigners will hold the company ransom if they decide to walk out amass.
I have already heard of this happening in one or two companies that I visited.
So what can we do now?
So what can we do to alleviate the current perplexing employment situation?
For one, the Ministry of Manpower needs to tighten up the employment passes further and ensure that employers continue to hire Singaporeans first.
Our dreadful EP system also needs to have a quota system like the S-Pass so that our local PMETs are not entirely displaced by educated younger foreign workers.
The over-supply of foreign workers has adversely affect the employment opportunities of our local workers and severely depress wages as well.
Human resource managers have told local workers looking for jobs to “take it or leave it” as there are long queues of foreign workers waiting to be hired.
Our local employers need to seriously consider hiring local worker if there are vacant position and do not need any niche specialised skills from a foreign talent.
I have seen too many foreigners carrying out the common duties of a receptionist, co ordinator, telephone operator, manager among others.
They are mainly young, eager to please and slightly cheaper than local workers and who can fault our employers from hiring them?
Who allow these workers to flood the country in the first place?
Why not give our jobless 40-50s executives a shot at the job if they don’t mind the same salary and job scope?
Moreover, local workers are here to stay and we have obligations to our family and country.
The foreign workers will only stay on as long as their financial obligations are met. They will leave after that.
The employment situation will only get worse if MOM does not intervene and allows the rot to continue.
Our birth rate will also worsen if local Singaporeans do not see stability at the job front and decide not to give birth due to financial reasons.
Hopefully, this contentious employment pass system is one sacred cow that the Prime Minister is willing to slay for the country.
If not, Singaporeans will not harbour any loyalty to a country that operates like a incoporation in the first place.
Written by: Gilbert Goh