It is reassuring that rules to ensure employers do not discriminate against Singaporean workers by hiring foreigners will be updated this year. An indication of how the Fair Consideration Framework could be updated can be found not just in the recent official signal to expect stronger deterrence for discrimination against Singaporeans when hiring, but also in stronger support for employers that are committed to giving Singaporeans a fair chance. This is an attempt to enhance the balance between two abiding interests that the existing framework already seeks to do.
The first imperative is openness to foreign workers. It is a truism that they help Singapore to compete globally. Such workers, ranging from blue-collar employees to professional, managerial and executive workers, supplement the Singapore workforce in areas where local supply lags behind international demand. Singapore's extremely high trade-to-gross domestic product ratio, which attests to the degree of the economy's globalisation, necessitates taking a global view of the workforce. It would be difficult for Singapore to invite foreign investment and technology transfers, and to export its goods and services, without empowering its companies to make the best use of available labour, whether domestic or foreign. Protectionism would cut the ground from under the feet of Singapore as a global economy. It might save some local jobs in the short term, but it would hurt the competitiveness of domestic companies and cost the jobs of many more Singaporean workers when those firms go under or leave.