The Straits Times
Published on Feb 14, 2013

Why employers shun local graduates


WE OFTEN hear that Singapore needs to bring in foreigners for the growth of the country.

I agree that we have little choice in the matter if we are referring to jobs Singaporeans do not want. But how about jobs that Singaporeans do want?

It would be good to find out the real reasons why employers hire foreigners instead of Singaporeans for such jobs, whether they be in banking, information technology or marketing.

A Singaporean friend of mine, who was then a director in a European multinational corporation located here, told me a few years ago that he specifically directed his human resource department not to hire any graduate from our local universities unless absolutely necessary.

His view was that local graduates lacked the necessary mindset and attitude to do a job well. In contrast, graduates of foreign universities, Singaporean or otherwise, tended to be more independent, streetwise, resilient and self-driven.

According to him, the only positive thing about local graduates was that they were book-smart.

At another function where lecturers and heads of department - both Singaporean and foreign - from local universities were present, the bulk of the conversation was on our university students - they lacked independent thought, needed spoon-feeding, were whiny and complained about everything but did not do anything to improve the situation.

We have a sizeable number of tertiary graduates every year. So why is it that some employers still seek to employ foreigners instead of Singaporeans?

Some of my friends who are employers tell me that cost is often not the issue. They are willing to, and actually do, pay these foreigners more for no reason other than that they can do a better job.

As an educator, I have encountered many students who display the traits cited above.

What we need to do is obvious - improve the quality of our graduates, thereby making them more attractive to hire and consequently reducing the need to hire foreigners.

Alex Yeo