The Dive: Is the Singapore Government favouring foreigners over Singaporeans?

TL;DR – No, they have been investing heavily in Singaporeans, who play an important role in shaping Singapore’s future.

The Dive is our new weekend feature where we bring you in-depth news, interesting insights and different perspectives on the latest trends or issues that matter.

So earlier this week, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the country will implement a two-week Movement Control Order from March 18 to March 31 in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19.

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This sudden and drastic move has caught many Malaysians working in Singapore off-guard as they scramble to find accommodation in Singapore for the next two weeks, while others look for alternative work arrangements.

In response to the lockdown, the Singapore Government has stepped in to provide financial support for companies with workers that were affected by the lockdown.

And here comes the burning question:

“Why is the Government only taking care of citizens from another country?”

WRONG.

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The Government is helping both Singaporeans and Malaysians.

You see, the allowance of $50 per worker per night for 14 nights is paid to firms to help them cover the unexpected extra costs incurred, for instance, when these firms arrange accommodation for the affected Malaysian workers. This money will then be paid to the hotels or to the landlords in Singapore.

Let’s also not forget that many of these workers are hired by companies that provide essential services, such as healthcare, security, cleaning, transportation, waste management, facilities management, and logistics.

And some of these are the jobs that most Singaporeans do not want to work in, if I may add.

Without them, our businesses will be impacted, our everyday lives will be greatly affected. And if these businesses close down, Singaporean jobs will be lost as well.

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Also, the argument that the Government is favouring foreigners over Singaporeans is moot because the Government has supporting Singapore workers over the years – whether Covid-19 or not.

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Protecting Singapore workers

First and foremost, our Government is serious in protecting Singapore workers, which is why we have the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF). This is a part of the Government’s overall effort to strengthen the Singaporean core in the workforce.

This guideline is set out by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to ensure that employers consider Singaporeans fairly for all job opportunities before hiring foreigners.

Reportedly, a total of 1,000 companies have been placed on the FCF Watchlist after being suspected of discriminatory hiring practices by MOM.

Helping and investing in Singapore workers and companies

In case you don’t already know, there is a long list of initiatives, schemes, and programmes which the Government has put together to help Singapore workers and companies stay relevant and nimble:

  • SkillsFuture – part of the Government’s investment to support individuals, enterprises and mid-career workers. This initiative aims to encourage Singaporeans to learn new skills.
  • Productivity Solutions Grant – supports companies keen on adopting IT solutions and equipment to enhance business processes.
  • SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit – support firms in workforce and enterprise transformation.
  • Hiring incentive and salary support – to encourage employers to hire local jobseekers aged 40 and above through reskilling programmes which include Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs), Place-and-Train (PnT) programmes for rank-and-file workers, and career transition programmes by Continuing Education and Training (CET) centres.
  • Professional conversion programmes – an initiative under the Adapt and Grow to help workers reskill and move into growth industries.
  • Place-and-Train programmes – provide rank-and-file workers who have been unemployed for 6 months or more with training and salary support to help them reskill so that they can take on new jobs in different sectors.
  • P-Max – one of the Place-and-Train programmes that aims to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) better recruit, manage and retain newly-hired PMETs.
  • Career Trial programme – allow Singaporean jobseekers to try out jobs for a period of time to see if it’s the right fit.
  • Senior Employment Credit – to provide wage offsets for employers hiring older workers
  • CPF Transition Offset – to offset half of the increase in employer CPF contribution rates for older workers in 2021
  • Senior Worker Early Adopter Grant – to encourage enterprises to increase their retirement and re-employment ages ahead of the legislated changes
  • Part-Time Re-employment Grant – to encourage enterprises to formalise part-time re-employment provisions
  • Jobs Support Scheme – to provide one-off wage support to enterprises that retain their local workers
  • Enhance Wage Credit Scheme – to support salary increases for Singaporean workers
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Additional support is also given to workers in the tourism, aviation, food services, and retail, as well as point-to-point transport sectors which are hit hardest by the virus outbreak. Workers in these sectors will be supported with more training support and redeployment.

The Covid-19 outbreak no doubt has impacted businesses in many ways. As such, to help SMEs with their working capital needs, the Enterprise Financing Scheme – SME Working Capital Loan (EFS-WCL) is enhanced until March 2021. The Government has also grant businesses a corporate income tax rebate in a move to help them improve their cash flow as well.

Creating more job opportunities for Singaporeans

By attracting and bringing in more foreign investments to set up businesses in Singapore, the Government is creating and opening up more job opportunities for Singaporeans.

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Sure, some might argue that some of these overseas businesses only bring their own people from their foreign country into the company. But do bear in mind that these foreigners are Employment Pass (EP) holders who will leave the country once their mission to kickstart the operation and transfer the skills to the local workforce is completed.

Just so you know, the EP issued by the MOM only allows foreigners to work in Singapore for up to two years (for first-timers), and an EP can be renewed for a period of up to three years.

In other words, once their time is up here, they will have to go back to their home country eventually and voila, there will be positions and roles freed up for local workers.

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Having said that, Singaporeans must also be equipped with the necessary skillset and brush up our capability to take on these jobs, be ready and competitive enough for the global stage. Which is also why the Government keeps asking Singaporeans to go for training.

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If that is not protecting and helping Singaporeans, I don’t know what it is.

 

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Ji Mei

Author Ji Mei

Ji Mei is a working adult by day and a fangirl by night (don't judge). Has great interest in labour-related issues, loves ghost stories and bubble tea!

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