Singapore, Aug 31 (PTI) A prominent Singaporean labour union leader and parliamentarian on Monday called for protection of jobs for local people amidst claims that foreign professionals, including from India, are taking away jobs from them.
In recent weeks, Singapore has seen the issue of competition from foreign workers return to the public spotlight.
Many have claimed that foreign professionals take away jobs from locals, and that deals like the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) give preferential treatment to Indian nationals, according to a Channel News Asia report.
Singaporean authorities can do more in their bid to protect the local workforce, labour union leader Patrick Tay told Parliament as he laid down several suggestions for the government to consider to “further strengthen the Singaporean core”. Last week, the Ministry of Trade and Industry released a statement to dispute claims about the CECA, saying that it does not automatically grant Indian nationals access to Singapore citizenship, permanent residence or employment here.
Earlier this month, state-owned investment company Temasek was criticised on social media for hiring Indian professionals instead of local people.
Tay, the Assistant Secretary-General for the National Trades Union Congress said like the higher qualifying salary requirement for the financial services sector, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) should also consider raising the minimum salary criteria for the infocomm technology and professional services sectors.
There are generally more companies from these industries on the national hiring discrimination watchlist, said Tay, who is also a parliamentarian from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).
Last Thursday, the MOM decided to increase the minimum qualifying salary to USD 3,659 for entry-level employment pass for foreigners in the financial services sector. The salaries are being raised for foreigners entering the Singapore workforce under Employment Pass (EP) following Singaporeans job loss concerns raised during the July 2020 general elections.
However, Tay acknowledged concerns raised to him and other union leaders that the new rule could widen the salary gap between foreigners and local people.
Employers would simply raise the salaries or repackage benefits of their foreign employees to keep within the boundaries of the rules, something that is easily done in sectors which traditionally have higher-earning EP holders, he said.
At the same time, their Singaporean counterparts may not get a similar pay hike, especially during a time when wage freezes and cuts are commonplace, Tay said, adding that the unions will 'closely watch the actions of employers' to address this issue.
Tay said Singapore needs to rethink its stance on anti-discrimination legislation, and that laws on hiring bias -- instead of just guidelines under the Fair Consideration Framework -- should be explored.
Tay also urged organisations and their leaders to be more fair towards Singaporeans by changing their mindsets about taking on locals, and offering regional and global opportunities to Singaporeans since Singapore has welcomed these foreign professionals.
'The disruption brought about by COVID-19 and the resulting economic recession has surfaced ground concerns on the increased competition for jobs and employment...I cannot help but wonder if, as a result of unchecked conscious and unconscious bias, there may still be instances of nationality bias in hiring and promotion and in today’s context, retrenchments? 'The reality is, left unchecked, this would exacerbate the glass-ceiling effect and issues relating to job opportunity for our Singaporean PMEs,' Tay said.
However, Tay said he is not advocating for closed-door policies, agreeing that as an open trade economy with low birth rates, Singapore has to bring in foreign labour to address its labour gaps.
“We need to guard against abuse of our system, by giving Singaporean PMEs a fair chance at local job opportunities, which will also mitigate any potential brain drain,' he said. PTI GS SCY SCY