Replies: Hiring practices

Businesses committed to Singaporean core, but cannot be anti-foreigner

We thank Mr Jeffrey Law Lee Beng for his letter (Find out why firms prefer to hire foreign professionals, Feb 27). Amid the many challenges posed by Covid-19, Singaporeans are understandably concerned with manpower competition and employment security.

The majority of businesses in Singapore are committed to recruiting fairly based on merit and growing a strong Singaporean core.

Earlier this year, 29 trade associations and chambers representing a wide spectrum of Singapore's economy issued a joint statement underlining the business community's commitment to fair hiring and employment practices.

While there are a minority of companies that may not yet practise fair hiring, they are not representative of the majority of businesses that strive to adopt progressive human resource practices and support the development of Singaporeans.

We must not overlook the reality that Singapore is a small country with a limited workforce. For Singapore to sustain its economic growth and standard of living for its citizens, we need to augment the Singaporean core in our workforce with foreign employees.

There are areas in our economy where there are skills gaps and areas where there are simply not enough Singaporeans to take up the jobs critical to keep businesses going. Foreign employees help us to bridge these gaps and they work together with their Singaporean counterparts towards the success of businesses here.

If businesses are not able to meet their skills and manpower needs here, we will lose them, and this will mean loss of job opportunities for Singaporeans.

By taking in foreign employees judiciously to complement the Singaporean core, we can build a stronger Team Singapore for the benefit of Singapore and Singaporeans. For example, in sectors like hotels, food services and retail, foreign employees form part of the vital front-line teams that provide the quality service enjoyed by Singaporeans.

Our vision for Singapore's workforce is one where diversity is celebrated and individuals are respected, trained and developed on an equal opportunity basis.

When hiring, businesses should always consider the Singaporean core, and there are existing mechanisms to ensure this. However, they cannot just look at nationality, and should hire the best-fit candidates based on merit, considering also the candidates' skills, attitude and experience.

Even as businesses remain pro-Singaporean and consider Singaporeans first to build a strong Singaporean core, we cannot afford to be anti-foreigner or to artificially limit jobs to Singaporeans only.

Doing so will be detrimental to the future of Singapore and the livelihood of Singaporeans.

Lam Yi Young

CEO, Singapore Business Federation

This letter was co-signed by the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, Restaurant Association of Singapore, Singapore Hotel Association, Singapore Manufacturing Federation, Singapore Nightlife Business Association and Singapore Retailers Association.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2021, with the headline Businesses committed to Singaporean core, but cannot be anti-foreigner. Subscribe