Singaporeans from past generations took on top jobs at global firms after acquiring the skills to do so, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said yesterday
They did not get these jobs initially. In the 1970s, the first three semiconductor companies in Singapore created more than 7,000 jobs over the span of three years.
However, Singaporeans did not get the best-paying jobs at National Semiconductor, Fairchild and Texas Instruments immediately because they lacked the skills or experience .
But in time, Singaporeans took over many of those higher-paying jobs, with many of the early engineers and technicians becoming senior executives, mentoring a new generation of Singaporeans, Mr Chan noted. Today, the same situation is taking place in the information and communications technology and software industries, he said.
"So, do we go out and attract these investments like Google, Grab and Facebook, not just for this generation but, more importantly, also for the next? I say we do, and land the investment first," he said in his reply to Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) and Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC).
"I ask this House frankly: Do we agree with this approach? Do we hold that we should reject any investment on the grounds that the investment would result in more foreigners in Singapore, some earning more than Singaporeans in the same company?"
Arguing that most Singaporeans understand and accept the need for such investments, he stressed the need to work hard to upgrade Singaporeans' skills to take over the higher-paying jobs as soon as possible.
"But do not exploit sentiments to create envy, anger and frustration towards that foreigner who is now taking the $10,000 job."
He said the Government will continue to devote resources to help Singaporeans stay relevant and move into higher-paying jobs. "The Government is on the side of Singaporeans. We will grow our economy and attract investments to create good jobs for Singaporeans," he said.
"Unlike other countries, Singapore and Singaporeans do not need to fear competition. We know we have to remain open to the world," he said.
Singapore, he added, has the means to help its workers - something not many countries have the political mandate, will or necessary resources to do. "That is why their workers push back against global integration, trade liberalisation and so forth. But we are different."
He added that the real competition is not that of the Singaporean versus the permanent resident (PR) here versus the foreigner, but rather Team Singapore - comprising Singaporeans, PRs and foreign workers here - competing with the rest of the world.