Singapore shouldn't be too closed to foreign talent: SNEF chief

MR ROBERT YAP, president of the Singapore National Employers Federation, on being open to outside talent. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The focus on the Singaporean core should not be taken to the extreme, with Singapore becoming too closed to talent from beyond its shores, said Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) president Robert Yap.

Some foreigners with specialised skills are needed to fill gaps and train locals so that companies here can be competitive. Also, a degree of diversity provides a benchmark or "sparring partner" for local workers to build upon, he said.

"That kind of scheme must always be there... Otherwise, we are just fighting ourselves, we think we are the champion, but (we are) champion only in Siglap. We want to be the champion globally. Just like you compete to be Miss Sungei Road. But Miss Sungei Road is only Miss Sungei Road, what about Miss Universe?

"We must have a balance, otherwise we become too closed, then we will lose our competitive edge, we lose our own instincts, our local population's instinct to actually be the best because we think we are already the best," he said.

At the same time, he hopes there can be more government support for large local enterprises or homegrown multinationals so that more Singaporeans can take on top management positions with wider portfolios, he said in an interview last week with The Straits Times.

Such companies would push for a Singaporean core with their heart, compared with some other companies which may just do the bare minimum, added Mr Yap, 68, who is executive chairman of logistics group YCH.

He also responded to National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay's recent suggestion that the authorities publish the names of companies placed on its Fair Consideration Framework watch list for potentially discriminatory hiring practices.

Repeat offenders who have no respect for the system should be named, though he does not think this is necessary for those who make the mistake once or are merely suspected of biased hiring.

"Once you... name and shame, actually, it is very, very, very bad for the company in terms of employment and also its image and... so that could create too many adverse effects," he said.

Commenting also on the Manpower Ministry's move to provide weekly updates on the job situation - such as updates on retrenchments and sectors with job vacancies - Mr Yap said this would be useful for employers and trade associations. They can try to match spare employees with employers who need workers.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2020, with the headline Singapore shouldn't be too closed to foreign talent: SNEF chief. Subscribe