Majority of new jobs created go to Singaporeans and will continue to do so: Chan Chun Sing

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing speaks during a media briefing on Jan 16, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - About 83 per cent of the 60,000 new jobs created for the local workforce between 2015 to 2018 went to Singaporeans, and the rest to permanent residents.

Providing a breakdown for the first time on Thursday (Jan 16), Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said about 50,000 of the jobs created during that period went to Singapore citizens, and more than 9,000 to permanent residents.

This means there were five new jobs that went to Singaporeans for every one that went to a PR.

The proportion of PRs in new jobs is slightly higher than that of PRs in the local workforce, which is about six Singaporeans to one PR.

Mr Chan said the "slightly stronger" employment growth for PRs should be expected as they have been "pre-selected".

A spotlight was cast on the breakdown of Singaporeans, PRs and foreigners in the workforce after Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh asked for figures in Parliament earlier this month.

Replying, Mr Chan said the Government does not have "anything to hide". But he questioned Mr Singh's intentions.

In an interview on Thursday, Mr Chan said: "I know it's easy to politicise (the breakdown of local employment figures) and say, why is the PR performance slightly stronger than the Singapore citizen performance."

But there are very simple reasons for this, he said, noting that the Singaporean workforce is made up of a wider group of workers aged from 20 to more than 60 years old.

In comparison, the PRs who come in are those with "strong job opportunities". "Because we pre-select the PRs, it would not be surprising that in some sectors, the PR performance is just slightly better than the Singaporeans," he added.

He said Singaporeans would be worried if the reverse were true, adding that the unemployment rate of Singaporeans and PRs is similar.

Citing "opportunists" who claim that the Government does not care about Singaporeans, and who point to the lower unemployment rate of foreigners compared to Singaporeans and PRs, he said: "The truth of the matter is, if a foreigner is unemployed, why would we want (him) to be in Singapore? So the unemployment rate for foreigners in Singapore must be zero."

Reiterating numbers cited by Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad in Parliament earlier this month, Mr Chan noted that the 23 key sectors with industry transformation blueprints cover about 80 per cent of Singapore's workforce.

Of the new jobs created in these sectors, the same five-to-one ratio stands, although it varies from sector to sector.

On the number of jobs held by Singaporeans and PRs versus foreigners, he said the proportion is three resident workers to around one foreign worker.

This excludes jobs such as construction workers which Singaporeans typically do not take up. Including such jobs, the ratio is two resident workers to one foreign worker.

He also said there would be more foreigners in the fastest-growing sectors like information and communications technology (ICT), which experience a worldwide shortage of people with the right skills.

Reiterating a point he made in Parliament earlier this month, he said this is not a static picture and the important question is whether Singaporeans are taking over such jobs over time.

"The answer is yes," he said, pointing to the graduate employment survey released on Tuesday which showed that polytechnic graduates last year had better job prospects than their seniors, and commanded slightly higher salaries.

"You will see that many of our graduates go into these jobs. This means that progressively, our people are taking over these higher-paying and better jobs, even though today the local (to foreigner) ratio may be lower than three-to-one. "

Mr Chan also gave the assurance on Thursday that the majority of 32,814 jobs coming on-stream in the next three to five years will go to Singaporeans.

The new jobs created are due to an unexpectedly large amount - $15.2 billion - in investment commitments in Singapore last year, which exceeded initial estimates of $8 billion to $10 billion.

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