The Straits Times
www.straitstimes.com
Published on Feb 08, 2013
 

Revise foreign labour policy to help S'poreans

 
 

I WORK in a large multinational corporation (MNC) and have witnessed the waves of foreign executives relocating to Singapore ("Call to relook curbs on foreign worker inflow"; Monday).

These expatriates hold mainly top-level executive posts. In recent years, they have been bringing in mid-level executives from overseas, usually from their own countries.

I know of many Singaporean colleagues who vied for these posts but were not even considered.

We pride ourselves on having a world-class education system. Surely, after all the years of rigorous studying, our local talent is well-qualified to take up executive roles in these firms. But why is this not happening?

Simply put, there is no requirement for employers in MNCs to first look at the local talent pool.

At the ground level, these hiring managers are themselves foreigners, and they have no moral obligation to hire Singaporeans.

At the policy level, there is no incentive or regulation in place to make companies hire Singaporeans over foreigners.

I echo MP Foo Mee Har's comments in Parliament on Monday that "many consider the current employment pass system somewhat liberal in its assessment of foreigners vying for attractive PMET jobs" ("'Instil confidence that Govt is for the people'"; Tuesday).

I urge MPs who work in the private sector to speak up on behalf of local professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) who are facing intense job competition and unfair hiring practices.

As a young graduate applying for a job in the United States, I found that companies there had to prove they were unable to hire US citizens before they could recruit foreigners. Also, there was an annual quota on employment visas for foreigners.

In Australia, the authorities allow foreign professionals and executives to work there only if they possess the skills specified in the "skilled occupation list". This list is updated regularly, with skills added or removed depending on the needs of the country.

I urge the Government to revise our policy on employment pass holders to ensure that local fresh graduates are able to find jobs, and that there are opportunities for them to advance in their careers.

I am not against bringing in low- or semi-skilled foreigners to work in areas shunned by Singaporeans, but there should be tighter controls on the hiring of skilled foreign labour. These foreigners should be hired only in specific or niche industries where there is a true shortage of local talent.

Furthermore, MNCs and other companies that wish to employ foreigners on employment passes should pay some form of levy, just like employers of work permit and S-pass holders.

Bernard Chong Seow Ming