National Conversation hints at moves to give Singaporeans fair consideration for jobs

A National Conversation session on jobs on Saturday morning gave some indications of options the Government is exploring as it looks into measures to get employers to give Singaporeans fair consideration for jobs.

Some 40 participants were asked for their views on practices in three countries even as Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin promised that adjustments would be made and "we have begun to have a bit of clarity about where we might want to go".

At the last of four Our Singapore Conversation sessions held by the Manpower Ministry, facilitators gave presentations on measures used by the United Kingdom, United States and Hong Kong in three specific areas: demonstrating effort to recruit locals for jobs, giving justifications for hiring foreigners and showing that locals have not been displaced.

Responses from participants were varied, though some popular measures included Hong Kong's practice of requiring employers to provide reasons for recruiting a foreigner to fill a vacancy and the US practice of employers declaring that they have taken steps in "good faith" to recruit locals.

Other participants noted that employers might still try to find ways around such measures and legislation, a point Mr Tan acknowledged. His ministry has been working closely with other countries to understand their systems, he said in his wrap-up speech: "Many of these coutnries go through some hoops and hurdles. It looks good on paper but does it completely eradicate things? No, it doesn't, But should we leave it completely open as we are today? I would say no. We need to do something."

He said the ministry is looking at adjustments which would "add in some level of process" where employers need to be more conscious when hiring. Speaking to reporters after the session, Mr Tan said the changes would have to meet a couple of objectives. Key among these is "make sure that we look after all Singaporeans". "Policies are not created for foreigners. Policies are created for the benefit of our people and our society at large, and to do it hopefully in a sustainable way as well," he said.