Concern over foreigners vying with locals for jobs

Two Workers' Party (WP) candidates in Nee Soon GRC have said that their observations of changes in Singapore after returning from years overseas made them decide to join politics.

Lawyer Gurmit Singh, 55, said he had witnessed first-hand how jobs were protected for locals in Australia, where he qualified as a barrister and solicitor.

He tried to work there, but was unsuccessful, he said at the WP rally in the group representation constituency last night. "I went knocking on several doors and all of them gave me the same response. They said, 'Our jobs are first and foremost for Australians'," he said.

He learnt later that a firm would have had to assure the government that hiring him did not deprive an Australian of the job.

Back home, however, he found a "startling and completely different picture". Despite sending out "hundreds" of applications, he could not find a job and was hardly called for an interview. "Even more disheartening was to... see our politicians telling us that we were unemployed because we were not working hard enough, and we were choosy about our jobs," he said.

He said government policies had allowed foreigners to come and vie for jobs with Singaporean professionals managers, executives and technicians.

Although the Government later introduced the Fair Consideration Framework, which encourages firms to consider Singaporeans for jobs before hiring foreigners, "let us not forget who opened the floodgates in the first place", he said.

His Nee Soon teammate, Mr Ron Tan, 30, who studied abroad before returning in 2008, said he was struck by how Singaporeans were "getting more stressed, more tired, more worried for their future".

"All our lives we were told to study hard and get good grades so that we could get a good job that would guarantee a comfortable life... Imagine the rude shock we got when we graduated and realised that we had barely enough to keep up with the cost of living."

Yet the concerns raised by his generation were often dismissed.

"We were told that we should be grateful for the opportunities given to us by our Government; that we need to work harder to be cheaper, better, faster... In just one masterful stroke our voices were silent; our worries labelled invalid; our generation painted as whiny, the complain kings and complain queens, and ungrateful," he said.

His desire to change that perception prompted him to stand in the election. "We want a stake in this country we love. We want to be part of the process, to be a stakeholder, and not be shut up as being whiny and ungrateful," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2015, with the headline 'Concern over foreigners vying with locals for jobs'. Print Edition | Subscribe