Govt will address S'poreans' anxiety over competition for jobs from foreigners: President Halimah

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A job fair organised by NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute held at the Bukit Panjang community centre on Aug 18, 2020. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - President Halimah Yacob on Monday (Aug 24) acknowledged the growing anxiety over competition for jobs from foreigners, and said the Government will address these concerns.

As masters of their own land, Singaporeans must have confidence in the rights and privileges of citizenship, she said, adding that their interests are "always paramount" in all that the Government does.

But at the same time, Singapore cannot afford to turn inwards, away from the world, and should continue to welcome those who can contribute and improve the country's future, she added.

Addressing the issue of competition from work pass holders, which has become more emotive amid the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus crisis, she said: "This has become a major source of anxiety, especially among mid-career Singaporeans.

"We understand these concerns. They not only touch on matters of livelihood, but also on our sense of identity and belonging. They will be addressed."

In her traditional address to open Parliament, which was drafted by the Government, President Halimah said the authorities will work with employers to build up the capabilities of the workforce, and to ensure Singaporeans are treated fairly when companies recruit or retrench workers.

"Our strong education system and training pathways have produced a workforce that can compete against the best in the world," she said.

Urging Singaporeans to keep their hearts open to those who come from beyond the country's shores, she said: "We should continue to welcome and integrate those who can contribute to Singapore, and improve our lives and our children's future."

She acknowledged that the issue can be polarising, and urged Singaporeans to listen and to try to understand one another as more meaningful discussions are opened up on the issue.

President Halimah also said it was important to break out of online echo chambers to try and bridge the gap with those who think differently.

"We must strive to obtain greater insight, build shared understanding and use our diverse perspectives and ideas to achieve better outcomes for all," she said.

The Singaporean identity, she added, was formed and strengthened "not by excluding those who arrive later, but by successive arrivals adding to the richness of our society".

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