Francis Yuen, Assistant Secretary General
Jobs, jobs, jobs…
DPM Heng has reemphasized the importance of keeping and creating jobs at his recent announcement on further help to businesses and workers. Among the measures mentioned is the incentive to hire local staff by offering wage offsets for the younger and older segments of our workforce.
It is not clear if this incentive is tied in with the foreign PMET issue. But there are certainly low hanging fruits available to help our local PMETs who are in need of employment by tackling the huge number of foreign PMETs working here. The reasons why we need them must be taken in perspective from the view point of employment opportunities for our locals and the need to acquire certain skill sets and expertise that Singapore needs.
To do this we need granularity of Information regarding this almost 400,000 foreign PMETs. What kind of jobs are they doing? Can their jobs be done by locals and over what time frame? Who are their employers? What are their terms of employment such as tenure? There is undoubtedly room to formulate a deliberate plan to “localize” jobs amongst these group. And this can happen between 3-6 months in the immediate term, within 2 years in the short term and 5 years in the longer term.
There is for sure a need for foreign talent to complement our local workforce as well as to cross fertilize and spur skill development. But where foreign talents are brought in out of expediency or for reasons of lower costs, then a deliberate policy to localize must be instituted.
We need to be clear on what are skills and expertise that we will continue to lack and hence would need foreign talents to fill versus those that we can replace with our own talents and there should be clear policies ( incentives and disincentives included) for companies to localize. It is far better that companies are driven to take initiative to localize and take on the responsibility to train locals to replace their foreign staff than the government trying to provide retraining schemes that do not link up with direct employment.
Companies must be motivated to do this through incentives and disincentives. When this is done right, fair hiring will take its own course.
If we are serious about providing focus on jobs, jobs and jobs, this will be an important issue to debate and address in parliament.