While Singapore "cannot open the floodgates and drown Singaporeans", it cannot afford to "close our borders and reject foreigners in the workforce" either, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing stated in Parliament on Jan. 6.
As such, the government will continue to take a balanced approach towards the intake of foreign workers based on the needs of industries and business, the needs of workers in the current generation, and opportunities for children in the future.
"Above all, we must firmly reject efforts to stoke anti-foreigner sentiments by spreading falsehoods or creating invidious comparisons out of context.
That is not the kind of politics we want – like far-right parties in the European continent stirring hatred and fear of foreigners for political advantage."
The government's balanced approach has worked
Chan said that local employment increased by nearly 60,000 for the whole economy from 2015 to 2018, citing it as an example of how the "balanced approach" has worked.
Additionally, the proportion of Singaporeans in PMET (Professionals, managers, executives and technicians) jobs within the workforce increased to 57 per cent, one of the highest in the world.
As for the growth in real average monthly income for employed Singaporeans, Chan noted that the growth in real average monthly income for employed Singaporeans stood at 3.2 per cent per annum for 2015 to 2018, compared to 2.4 per cent per annum for the preceding three years.
This was also higher than the figures in the U.S., Japan and Germany.
The government is always watching out for Singaporeans
Chan's statement was given as part of a larger response to supplementary questions raised by Members of Parliament (MPs) Liang Eng Hwa and Pritam Singh, on the benefits of economic growth for Singaporeans as compared to foreigners.
Chan answered that economic growth had benefitted Singaporeans more than foreigners.
He acknowledged the anxieties that lay behind such questions, but pointed out that should there be too few foreign workers, businesses will be unable to seize opportunities and create better jobs for Singaporeans.
Chan added that this is "a never-ending balancing act with difficult trade-offs", and that the government pursued growth not for its own sake, but to improve Singaporeans' lives.
Zaqy Mohamad: Government has been making efforts to secure jobs for Singaporeans
Chan's reply echoed the response by Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad, who said that the government had been making progress in securing jobs for Singaporeans.
Answering a question by Pritam on the number of new jobs being filled by Singaporeans and foreigners, under the Industry Transformation Maps (ITM) programme, Zaqy said that the figures were encouraging.
Zaqy highlighted that starting from 2015, before the launch of the ITMs, to 2018, the total employment figure across 23 sectors (excluding foreign domestic workers) grew by 19,500.
This growth consisted of:
- An increase in employment of Singapore Citizens by 39,300.
- An increase in employment of Permanent Residents (PRs) by 8,600.
- A decrease in employment of foreigners by 28,500.
Meanwhile, from 2016 to Sep. 2019, both Workforce Singapore and NTUC’s Employment and
Employability Institute also helped 93,000 locals enter new jobs through the Adapt and Grow initiative.
Chan emphasised that the competition did not lie with the Singaporean competing against the PR and the foreigner, but that rather, it was Team Singapore, consisting of all three parties, competing with the rest of the world.
Pritam asked for further clarification on Chan's figures and whether the government would provide the data in future, but Chan replied that while this was possible, he wondered about the point of such questions.
Chan said that local unemployment had gone down while wages had gone up, and added: "But I'm always very cautious about this constant divide, Singaporeans versus PR. The insinuation seems to be somehow that Singaporeans are not benefitting."
Top image screenshot from gov.sg YouTube