Forum: A lesson in resilience in the face of a turbulent job market

Office workers are seen at Raffles Place on Sept 8, 2020.
Office workers are seen at Raffles Place on Sept 8, 2020.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Singapore has made it clear that hiring practices that discriminate against Singaporeans are unacceptable. It should be made clear, too, that our contention is not about foreign workers (S'pore to stay open to top global talent as it transforms economy, Sept 9).

Even when a large proportion of those retrenched were foreign workers, in view of the nation's predicament, it was a necessity, not a choice.

With rising unemployment exacerbating the anguish of the jobless, Singaporeans have to remain resilient. Perhaps the story of the Great Wall of Japan could serve us well as an analogy amid turbulent times.

After the 2011 tsunami, the Japanese authorities embarked on building a 15m-high anti-tsunami wall across 400km to divide the land from the ocean. In spite of their grief, having lost family members to the tsunami, fishermen in Akahama in Otsuchi town fought against the construction of the barrier.

To these fishermen, their close relationship with the sea is primal. They accepted that a tsunami is a natural occurrence - they cannot hate the ocean that sustains lives. They chose to move their houses to higher ground instead.

Akin to the fishermen's deep connection with the sea, our relationship with migrant workers is rooted and enduring. The majority of Singaporeans today are descendants of immigrants, whose forefathers came to Singapore as migrant workers and became citizens. Today, migrant workers continue to contribute to our nation building.

To the fishermen in Akahama, destroying the environment in order to safeguard a community from the forces of nature is something that is wrong.

Similarly, to resist the nature of global competition that requires Singapore to open its labour market is not the right thing to do. Besides, we too can choose to move to higher ground by improving our odds in competing with foreigners for jobs.

Such is the poignant resilience of the fishermen in Akahama.

Chow Kok Fai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2020, with the headline 'A lesson in resilience in the face of a turbulent job market'. Print Edition | Subscribe