Take care of the slippery slope from “Singaporeans First” to “Singaporeans Only”

Year: 2020

In the Presidential Address delivered on 24 August, President Halimah Yaacob acknowledged concerns over job security and incoming competition from work pass holders, promising that the Government would be working with employers to ensure fair processes for Singaporeans. FMG CEO Devadas proffers an alternative perspective on the competition for jobs between Singaporeans and work pass holders:

“On the whole, FMG welcomes the points highlighted in the Presidential Address delivered on the opening of the 14th Parliament.

However, we have concerns on the heavy emphasis placed on potential ‘divisiveness’ between Singaporeans and Work Pass holders (which we are interpreting broadly to include all categories of foreign labour ranging from work pass to S Pass and Employment Pass). There is a fine line between warranted calibration and protectionism and pandering to populism under the guise of protecting jobs for Singaporeans.

First, for Singapore to be globally competitive we need an internationalised workforce, crowding in talent from the rest of the world.

Second, at the low or unskilled level, there are few or no Singaporeans willing to do these tasks and at current levels of compensation. Raising the equilibrium price to incentivise Singaporeans to clear garbage, cut grass and build construction will come at a huge jump in costs to be either borne by the State or passed to the taxpayer.

Third, populism is ‘pushing on a string’, once it starts, the line will keep shifting and on more policy dimensions.

Fourth, care must be taken not to slide the slippery slope from ‘Singaporeans First’ to ‘Singaporeans Only’.

That would be self-injurious given an ageing society.”