A big jump in investments last year is set to create 32,000 jobs, with the bulk of them going to Singaporeans. This would be in line with the trend seen between 2015 and 2018. About 60,000 jobs were created during that period, of which 50,000 were taken up by Singaporeans. In another development, employers who discriminate against locals when they recruit now face stiffer penalties and could be prosecuted in court if they make false declarations on their hiring considerations. The new regime has kicked in with changes to the Fair Consideration Framework, which was introduced in 2014 to specifically target discrimination against locals and has now been given sharper teeth.
These developments would be reassuring to Singaporeans who are not content with the creation of jobs, essential though that is, but also with the national profile of the workers who benefit. Such concerns are natural. Economic disruption has become a corollary of economic growth, placing a strain on traditional relations between labour and capital. According to a McKinsey study, artificial intelligence (AI) could deliver additional global economic activity of around US$13 trillion (S$17.5 trillion) by 2030. That could be historically transformative. However, the study adds, the adoption of AI could widen gaps among countries, companies and workers. That result would exacerbate the general effects of globalisation, which internationalises the means of production, distribution and exchange in ways unimaginable otherwise, but also creates economic nations within political states. The Singaporean fear is that many local workers, including those who form the vanguard segment of professionals, managers, executives and technicians, could be displaced by disruptive technology such as AI even as foreigners living here benefit from consequent economic growth.