Support Site for The Unemployed & Underemployed
Tuesday March 19th 2019

Singaporean PMET lamenting about the un-levelled playing field in the job market

Dear Sir,

As you understand my gross salary of $2000+ after CPF is only xxx. I have been resorting to using credit facilities like cash advance or insurance loan for the past few years to get by. I am currently underemployed and I know some friends around me are underemployed as well. Some work as full time tutors or even without a job. I graduated from SIM in 2009 with a degree from xx University. I was awarded the top student in my specialization and overall top student in my cohort. I received no increment in view of my new qualifications. As 2009 was the peak of the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) and given the fact that my first child was due in May last year I did not plan to change my job until this year.

This year, thinking that I could move on to a better paying job, I sent out close to 100 job applications, but I was only called up for one serious interview. Many of the interviews which I turned down, they were only interested to get me to sell insurance. I was ‘tricked’ to turn up for one interview only to find out that it was for a career as an insurance agent which I have tried before many years ago. Quite a few job agencies called me up to seek my permission to forward my resume are also for contract positions, although I did agree but I was not called up for any interviews. The one serious interview I went for was to a company which is a subsidiary of SATS.

After I filled up my expected salary in the job application form, I was told by my interviewer, who is a director-level executive that my expected salary is too high and he did not think I am qualified to do the job but nonetheless wanted to see me in person as my experiences are ‘interesting’. I have many years of working experience and also have a degree but suddenly I am not qualified for the job. Was it the salary expectation that rendered me not qualified?

One statement he mentioned etched in my mind was he mentioned that he does not care if the employee is a Myanmar National, Chinese National or Malaysian, as long as the person can do the job he will hire him.

This statement shows the un-level playing field Singaporeans face in the workplace vis-à-vis foreigners. The savings for an employer is huge in terms of CPF contributions, reservist, maternity benefits, annual leave entitlement etc. Foreigners on work permit cannot change job easily. In 2004, I worked in a Thai restaurant as a management trainee, 50% of the staff were Singaporeans. Now most employees in service industries like retail or F & B industry are foreigners.

What has happened?

After that job searching experience, I realized that job security, good prospects and reasonable paying jobs are a thing of the past due to the influx of ‘foreign talent’. Our wages are being depressed.

I chose to let you know about this is to explain why I did not leave my job in search of better career prospects and pay. Listening to our government and going for upgrading of skills does not help if the level of playing field is tilted towards cheap labour from third world countries.

Right now, even though my current job have no or little prospects, it is risky to risk losing a stable job for one which may have more prospect or pays better but lack the job security. The fact that for many years I was the sole breadwinner, and now the main source of income also deters me from risking my career in terms of job security. Our MOM has made hiring and firing of staff too easy which impacted our job security. My course mate in xx degree course was retrenched after 8 years of service without any retrenchment benefits.

Singaporean workers at the middle level like us are facing intense competition from foreigners who are willing to work longer hours (their families are in their home countries but we Singaporeans need to balance our work and family life) and for lesser pay (due to exchange rate they have the luxury of doing that). The fact that inflation is very high in the past few years only served to worsen the situation. Many Singaporeans are either self-employed insurance or property agents or working in the public sector. Unless one is a highly qualified professional like lawyers, doctors, accountants or have the right connections, Singapore is a difficult place to survive especially for late bloomers like myself.

I used to be politically apathetic until in recent years I started to wonder why our GDP is always so high but we are not feeling it. I begin to understand that certain policies are indirectly hurting Singaporeans. I can even explain in detail the reasons why I married a foreigner which was linked to my pay and HDB policies but I will keep my email short as I understand your time is valuable.

Back to the main issue, I will be following up on my emails with a visit to MPS to meet you, my esteemed MP. I hope that as our MP, you can help the voices of the people to be heard in the Parliament.

Yours sincerely,

Editor’s note: This email is forwarded to us by the writer.

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2 Responses to “Singaporean PMET lamenting about the un-levelled playing field in the job market”

  1. Owen says:

    Hi Thomas,

    I feel for you when i read your article. Likewise, there will be NEVER a fair playing ground. If you are married to a foreigner. The advise is possible that follow your wife to her home country and settle down there.

    Perhaps you could able to get a better living and retire with grace in later years. Provided you willing to let go everything in sg.

    All the best of lucks.

  2. LALA says:

    Please provide important details for reader to make better advice.

    What degree you have from SIM?

    At subsidiary of SATS, how much are you asking for and what is the scope of work? has indicative salary ranges for your reference.

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