Cow Beh Cow Bu

Indian Manager in SG: Singaporean Workers Lack the Skills but Ask for Too Much Money

EVEREDDY: I know my opinion won’t count, but nevertheless, I could not help noticing a few fallacies in Dr. Juan’s argument.

He is complaining that cost of living is very high, and yet wages are being suppressed by employing foreign workers – however, if (much) higher wages were to be paid for everything, wouldn’t the costs go up accordingly. If instead of Bangladeshi workers working 5am-10pm for dirt cheap, Singaporean workers are employed in construction sites for 5-8 times those wages, won’t the already expensive HDB housings cost 3-4 times more than they currently do?

While articulated nicely, thus hiding these sort of fallacies, and sugar coating fear mongering, ultimately, I think (and yes, I may be wrong, after all I am a FT, I don’t understand the Singaporean view point that well), that the overall arguments are wrong, and touches on the fears of Singaporeans, but the proposed “solutions” will spell an almost immediate doom for Singaporean economy and its people.

Actually, I did not want to get into the FT argument, because what I have to say would sound harsher. But as someone who has to hire regularly and lead a team, I will only say – lower salary is not why I have to look for foreign workers, I just don’t find the right skilled folks for most of the positions I need to fill. It is good to have aspirations, but they need to be met with matching skills also.

While I used the example of laborers, actually even for white colored jobs, the argument is flawed (but for different reasons). I don’t want to go into a detailed discussion, because I have very strong opinions that will not go down well in a politically charged atmosphere, and as a foreigner, I don’t think it is even my place to air those opinions, but I will just say this – yes, there are many people with all sorts of degrees (and probably the education system is failing the society by giving away degrees to folks without/before imparting the proper skills), but when you need an actual job to be done, it is extremely hard to find the right people. There are of-course exceptions. Some of the best folks in the team I lead are Singaporeans, but they were clear exceptions. I am lucky to have found them to work with, but they are the rare exceptions that I found by suffering through a huge number of local bad hires. And there is no way to sustain business with just hiring locally.

Because of the political situation, PAP has however made it extremely difficult to hire people internationally (as much as the oppositions are unhappy with the foreigner influx, and as much as I understand and suffer the crowding as well). So much so, that I have started seriously wondering whether to move business out of Singapore, and relocate.

Anyway, I am afraid, going forward – it is a losing game for Singapore. There are serious physical/spatial constraints on how many people can live in this little dot. So number of foreigners need to be controlled. However, the level of control is already so high (and will get worse) for businesses, that it is a matter of time before shops start closing, if the policies continue in the same direction (even under PAP, and god forbid the oppositions’ policies).

I am not good with policies, so I cannot comment whether retraining the existing human resources will be adequate, or whether some other paths to keep the economy going while keeping the population in check can be found, but I sure hope against hope that that is somehow possible. But I definitely don’t see it in the oppositions’ discourse (as much as I agree with them, that an open political discourse is needed on these issues).



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  1. Local Talent

    September 4, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    Singapore provides financial perks and great business infrastructure / environment to induce foreign companies to set up here but cheap labour (foreign or local) is never a factor. By providing the ease and benefits to set up and do business in Singapore, it is reasonable to expect these companies in return help to train and improve competitiveness of Singaporean employees by hiring locally. Hence there is nothing to complain about our current foreign worker policy. In fact, there are many developed countries with even more stringent foreigner employment restrictions such as Germany. Foreign companies cannot cherry pick only the good things that Singapore can offer while expect unrestricted employment freedom just because they deem locals cannot fit the job. If you think the need to hire right skilled foreigners is overwhelmingly important to ensure the success of your business in Singapore, then I would suggest you relocate.

  2. ah chiong

    September 4, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    yet another who is conned. y must increase in labor costs due to hiring Sporeans be passed to end consumers? y can’t it be passed to landlords in the form of lower rentals or lower land costs in the case of hdb flats? one must understand that land related costs and valuation are residually derived.

  3. 1st world wages

    September 5, 2015 at 2:55 am

    1st we have to reinforce our position that Singapore is now a 1st world country! In a 1st world country, wages should be that of a 1st world! Not wages imported from a 3rd world!

    Are you saying that in Europe n the northern Americas including Canada, they should be paid the same wage as in India or Bangladesh?

    Off course not, that is why the Government should only bring FTs with skills to Singapore, those who can transfer knowledge n contribute to growing the economy n off course to draw 1st world wages! As for those construction workers, only those who can use equipment n machines to improve productivity should be allowed to work in the country n be paid skilled worker pay, not the present practice of what we see at construction sites n road works where we see 1 person working n 3 others looking on !

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