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Friday January 18th 2019

Why the current IT sector has little local representation

Gone are the days when anyone can just setup a bodyshop and hire Indians, Pinoys, Chinese and hawk them out to MNCs for a 1 or 2 year contact. Now rightly or wrongly( mostly the latter)  its assumed that foreigners are taking away work that could be done by locals.

However as a person who has interviewed many candidates in specific niche IT roles I can safely say that local talent is negligible in these niche areas. The only locals I have interviewed, who fit the roles were people who were from India or China, converted to PR and then subsequently converted to SG citizen.

Even if we find young locals who have studied the required subject, their salary demands are ludicrous. I will not pay $5000 for someone with no real world coding experience when I can get people with 4-5 years experience for the same amount.

We do hire some interns to learn the ropes. But most of them want to be project managers without even getting their hands dirty in the code, and they generally leave after the internship ends because they couldn’t get the coveted PMO role.

Mind you these are people who are interested in technology. Most young locals are still eyeing the banking and financial sectors and want to be the next wolf of wall street.

So long story short, SG has a dearth of skilled IT professionals. Its not an industry that has any attraction for the locals. Yet the government can’t be lax with giving out EPs for the IT sector lest they be accused of selling out the locals.

Its a catch 22 situation for the government, the employers and prospective foreign employees.

Editor’s note: the article is retrieved from Singapore Expats.

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8 Responses to “Why the current IT sector has little local representation”

  1. Sharlene says:

    who doesn’t work for pay in the first place ?
    5,000 sgd per month for software developer is chickenfeed compared to how much they pay in United States and Canada.

    i know an IT SME boss himself who is facing the same problem as you do but if you cannot afford to pay salary, pick up some coding skills and get the jobs done yourself but don’t blame singaporeans for not joining your company.

    if you really are so hard up and still don’t want to hire locals, you are only left with illegal options or just go overseas to grow.

    but not to forget in the US and Canada, while they face the same problems as you do, startups do give EQUITY to their employees even if their guys are paid a low basic.

    This is also MNC practice to retain workers..
    So don’t keep whining and complaining.

  2. YCS says:

    Agree. Whining employers like that should just hire FT. They are not worthy of hiring Singaporeans.

  3. GTL says:

    Let me share my thoughts on this issue as far as my memories permits…

    In the mid-late 90s, while I started my further education in marketing management after failed to complete my 3rd year poly engineering education for a subject failure, our government was strongly encouraging Singaporean to go into IT sector during that period of time.

    In early 2000, the company I worked with was very upset for not getting enough IT specialists on programming tasks. A few locals left after a year or two, as what they were doing was way low-end compared to what they had paid for in education fee to learn.

    In the period between 2003~2008 there was heaps of IT professionals flooding in from India. Employing them was easy and since then our company no longer interested in local IT folks.

    Our recruitment director was a Japanese who like the obedience of India talents with every “can can” attitude. They “can can” and then when they cannot, it was the few leftover local IT guys that fixed the problems day in and out. This period also coincide with the government opening up the flood gate for other foreign work force, talent or not. Our workforce was marginalised and placed on back burner.

    Fast forward to 2007, the last local IT guy left the company. The friens of India IT professional bring in more friends. Suddenly, study IT was a curse to many who wondered what education was valuable. Interview local IT job candidates never happened from then on. Japanese recruiting director replaced by India director, interviews conducted over phone call and Indian talents turn up next week.

    By 2009, many things looks horrible. Even the government lost a GRC. Recruiting non SG/SPR became a HR challenge. Cause and effect, many local IT people were out of picture… and here we are today.

    One of the deficiency we have in the education is spending too much time to train for something the business wants a little and whom would not pay the premium for it. Remember this paragraph, it is a fact. When you over-train, there is a higher expectation in the workforce. Many times, I failed to understand why a local diploma course that only earns you a wage of 2000 or less per month will take 3years of education time? Anyone see the reason behind? That is the whole outdated social management agenda beneath.

    It is simple to say I would pay $50k p.a. for someone 4~5 years in experience in IT. Frankly, how do we measure experience? And when you have 10 or even 20 years experience, you would say that’s over qualified. Over qualified became another word to discriminate your age. And when you are young, you are not experienced. So, it would be the Indian IT professionals who are young and experienced, any doubt?

    Business will say all it can to get the best worker for the least payout. But in Singapore is unique when someone say we cannot get good minister if we don’t pay them well.

    Fortunately, Singapore is starting to change with new “train and place” program by e2i but certainly the speed can run faster. Yet it is the government’s responsibility to further control the foreigner quota in various business sector.

    Wondered why there are many foreign workers in construction sector? MOM will tell you that for every Singaporean you employ, you can get 7 more work permits foreigners. Singaporean do not like to work in construction? Nah… any of us would like to get $1600 a month in wage before CPF contribution and work in a high safety risk environment and need to pay much higher insurance cost because the insurance providers classifieds you as high risk claimant? Let’s look at what other advanced nation construction sector to think and reflect ourselves as a nation. Politicians, the last sentence is for you.

  4. Aru Akise says:

    Based on my experience, some companies especially SME ones prefer to hire cheaper foreigners because these foreigners can exchange money for their own currencies back to their hometowns.

    I recalled that time when I asked a foreign colleague from Philippines. She graduates from university in Philippines and has about 10 years of work experience. She earns only S$4,000 per month. Her job is equal to IT Professional Services Consultant.

    But my local friends said that it should be estimated S$6,000 per month instead of S$4,000 per month based on work experience years.

    Many of my local friends do not want to do some programming codes because of low salaries. Some do analysis or consulting but without programming. Therefore, some companies hire cheap foreigners to do some programming codes.

    Therefore, it is the hard truth that some companies cannot afford for expensive local manpower so they depend on cheap foreign labour.

    I think it is because of PAP polices (i.e. make everything more expensive, more inflation) and the White Paper 6.9 million (more foreigners lead to depressed wage). Can we kick PAP out in 2020 for the real change?

  5. john tan says:

    im working as a database consultant in AU and im earning $120,000+ per annum excluding bonus. Sure the tax is higher than SG but hey, i get to work in the technical line while i am in my late 40s.

    • GTL says:

      I agree with you. When there is good income, why not for high tax? I rather pay 50% tax out of $100k made than 5% tax on $30k for the same job. Furthermore, you need not worry about medical bills and get dental benefits, even claim tax to eat out with friends

  6. Dico says:

    The only locals I have interviewed, who fit the roles were people who were from India or China, converted to PR and then subsequently converted to SG citizen-

    This is the most idiotic statement that I have heard from any fucking foreigner! I knew some very good and very experienced local IT people asking for lower pay than their last pay but did not get the job.

    IT job’s salary had dropped for the last 10 years in Singapore because of PAP huge influx of foreigners. I have a friend who had been in IT networking for 8 years who is already drawing $5000 in 2008 cannot get a job when he asked for $4500! It is not true that there is no IT jobs in Singapore, as a matter of fact, there is still a lot of vacancies in the job market but locals are not getting the job!

    He told me that most companies are only willing to pay $3000 for his job and they give foreigners priority because some would even willing to take the job for as low as $2500!

  7. JustCruise says:

    As a local Singaporean working on IT Industry, I assure you we have a lot of Singaporean IT… how can there be a sudden lack of IT staff? We have Singaporeans in IT Industry since the 80s serving Singapore companies and also providing IT services to neighboring countries.

    The issue is now in IT we are moving to Cloud and IoT and Big Data. These are areas which is white space. There are few people in these areas anyway. But the upside of Indians is many companies have their IT development center in India, hence the Indians have opportunity to pick these up first, never mind if what they know is only just skimming the surface, they have great connections in Singapore where the Indian recruiter manager in Singapore is willing to vouch for them and bring them in… hence why we always have “foreign talent” and Singaporeans have no chance

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