By night, I’m half-drunk on cheap NTUC wine and ready to fall asleep. But by day, I run a small food and beverage, and services business. And in the light of the latest TAFEP findings that allegations of discrimination in the workplace against Singaporeans top our locals’ complaint list, I felt it’s time to start my first story with Redwire commenting on this issue.
TAFEP is right, it’s a matter of perception. The allegations may or may not be true, depending on which side of the fence you’re on. As a business owner, foreigners are preferred over locals for most jobs because of the current business climate in Singapore. Locals might see this as discrimination, but it’s really about practicality because for a small business, every dollar counts towards feeding your family.
Do I have a solution to this? Not at the moment, but I can highlight why I say that foreigners are more employable at this point in time from an SME owner’s perspective.
(1) Less Costly to Employ
Employers pay a yearly foreign workers’ levy for our foreign friends ranging from $S500 to S$700. Compare that to a 16% CPF contribution rate for Singaporean workers.
A full-time Singaporean dishwasher employed at a salary of S$1200 per month would chalk up S$192 per month in CPF contributions.
If I run a Small-Medium Enterprise, i.e small business which needs to cut costs and cut more costs to make ends meet, who would I prefer to hire, if all else is equal?
To hell with the human touch, or Singaporeans first, the chap is hired to wash plates and my job is to keep my business afloat or go hungry!
(2) Less Disruption to the Office
Male foreigners don’t have to serve National Service. That means employers don’t have to worry that their staff will suddenly be pried away for up to 40 days a year to serve reservist.
I’m supposed to train this Singaporean boy for the job, and if he gets called up and I need the manpower, am I going to hire a fresh goondu for a month?
Also, foreign female workers on work permits aren’t allowed to get pregnant, otherwise the gahmen will give them the boot!
In the meantime, my Singaporean girl can take up to 4 months maternity leave.
This isn’t being sexist. It’s ideal for soon-to-be moms, but for a boss of a small business, this can be a big headache.
One that hiring a foreign worker solves easily.
(3) More Bang for the Buck
Also, let’s face it, foreign workers in Singapore don’t have much of a life (besides the expats who like to party at Boat Quay lah).
They’re willing to put in more hours, so long as they’re fairly compensated.
What they do require very much is a handphone so they can talk to their families back home.
In a way, they’re mercenaries looking for a better life, and this is the time they’ve dedicated to achieving this better life.
For Singaporeans, it’s trickier because of family obligations.
Work-life balance is important. As a family man, I can understand that.
But this is Singapore, where things are expected to run fast and efficient.
This isn’t Australia, where most shops on High Street close at 6pm.
We’ve to adapt to the climate we’re living in, and unfortunately in Singapore, that means work-life balance tends to take a backseat.
(4) More Dedicated
Foreign workers do the job with little complaints (except maybe that Edz Ello bugger who I hear likes to complain about Singaporeans).
They treasure the job because they’re getting more than they would back home.
One of my employees went back home to India after 2 years here and build himself a whole house (bravo, my friend, you deserve it for all the hard work you put in) !
Singaporeans have a different mindset, especially younger Singaporeans. Correct me if I’m wrong, but they value personal time to travel, to “chill” with friends, and to enjoy with family.
All well and good, but it also means, in very bland number terms, that their utility is lower.
It’s a cruel term lah and I’m sorry to have to say it like that, but business is about facts and figures.
There are Singaporeans who are very good, very smart and those guys I keep and give them a lot of perks.
But as for those who are average journeymen, it’s better to get foreigners in their place.
(5) More Versatile and Adaptable
Sometimes, the job position calls for overseas postings. If you have to oversee a new development, that can take more than just a couple of months.
Again, because of family concerns, Singaporean workers aren’t too keen to take up these appointments.
It’s seen as “extra duties” to use an army term.
Mainly again, they’re concerned with family responsibilities.
But foreign workers don’t have such concerns. They’ve already left their families to seek fortune and return home in glory later on (like Rambo).
Sometimes, I think these buggers even prefer overseas postings because towkay not around, not so much nagging (maybe only ah, not saying this is 100% the case)!
(6) Have that Extra “Oomph”
Business is cut-throat.
You see how the Americans try to use their “civil” western tactics to takeover Vietnam from the Commies? That’s Singaporeans.
We’re honest to goodness workers, and it’s really “yi fen qian, yi fen huo” (roughly translated, this means that you pay a dollar, you get a dollar’s worth of effort).
But Singaporeans generally aren’t very street-smart, possibly because our environment here from young is very straight.
For many foreign workers that come from the Asia region, they’re upbringing is very different. It’s more competitive, more snatch-and-grab, and
You really need to use your wits to get ahead of the next person or he’ll steal your place (just see how packed the trains can get when all the China guys return to their hometowns for Spring Festival).
That gives them the extra “oomph”, when it comes to doing the same job.
When you see a China salesman and a Singaporean salesman at work, you’ll understand what I mean.
Singaporean workers are still highly in demand because they are familiar with Singapore and the way things work here.
Also, they’ve a better touch when it comes to dealing with the local public (not too sure about the nursing sector because I don’t deal with that, but some say Filipino nurses are better at handling patients).
I wouldn’t say Singaporeans are smarter or more talented than foreigners, but the brilliant Singaporeans I’ve seen are really brilliant, innovative and driven.
And for those fresh out of school and not too worldly-wise, they can be trained to do well.
Sadly, the costs and demands of the current business climate put a strain on small businesses when it comes to hiring Singaporeans.
Big companies can afford to do this and boast about it, but we’ve all seen how graduate starting salaries have barely risen in the past decade (so it’s mostly all talk, and little action to improve their lot).
It’s a very practical environment, business, and it can be very cruel.
This story was written by Elson, and we congratulate him on popping his cherry.
If you’d like to join the Redwire team, drop us a email@example.com