Forum: Making sure Singapore workforce is globally competitive

We refer to the Forum letter, "Find out why firms prefer to hire foreign professionals" (Feb 27).

There are valid reasons why employers still hire foreign professionals even as we continue to strengthen the Singaporean core.

First, Singapore, a global financial centre, is home to 46 per cent of Asia's regional headquarters, and these companies would base their professionals, whether Singaporeans or foreigners of different nationalities, here to serve their regional and global operations.

Second, foreign professionals help Singapore to seize new business opportunities or to grow new industries quickly, while we develop Singaporeans for these new job opportunities. This strategy has enabled Singapore to grow industries like electronics and pharmaceuticals.

Third, even as capabilities are transferred to locals through the many schemes and programmes, there will always be a skills shortage in new growth areas. For example, the infocomm sector employs around 200,000 professionals in Singapore and would require another 60,000 within the next three years.

Even with expanded intakes in polytechnics and universities, and help to recruit mid-career individuals to join the sector, foreigners are still required to make up the shortfall.

Fourth, as part of talent development, multinational corporations would have global mobility programmes to provide overseas exposure for their employees. Just as foreigners are posted to Singapore, Singaporeans are given opportunities to work overseas. These postings offer Singaporeans invaluable regional and global exposure.

Last but not least, it is strategic for employers here to develop a core group of Singaporeans with the relevant expertise to ensure long-term competitiveness and sustainability of their business in Singapore. In fact, government initiatives such as the Jobs Growth Incentive and training support programmes have tilted the scales in locals' favour.

In summary, foreigners complement the Singaporean core in our workforce.

As we transform the Singapore economy, we need to continue to develop the Singaporean core and keep the labour market open so that our workforce can compete effectively in the global economy for the benefit of Singapore and Singaporeans.

Sim Gim Guan

Executive Director

Singapore National Employers Federation