Singapore Business Review (SBR) published an article last Mon (‘Singapore’s foreign workers left in limbo amidst tighter manpower rules‘, 4 Mar) highlighting that foreigners working in Singapore are “left in limbo” after the recent announcement by the Singapore government to cut work pass quota.

During the recent budget debate, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced cut in the foreign worker quota in the services sector, after noting that growth in S-pass services holders hit a five-year high last year.

“The foreign workers in Singapore’s services sector face heightened risk of losing their jobs after finance minister Heng Swee Keat announced in his budget address that the government will be reducing the dependency ratio ceiling (DRC) for the services sector from the current 40% to 38% by January 1, 2020 and to 35% in January 1, 2021,” SBR wrote.

“The S Pass sub-DRC for the services sector has also been tightened from the current 15% to 13% on Jan 1, 2020, and to 10% from Jan 1, 2021.”

The Singapore government is also actively promoting the use of technologies in industries so that companies would depend less on foreign manpower. In the meantime, technologies would help boost productivity.

Filipino on S-Pass: We are humans who have families to support

SBR interviewed one of the foreign workers on S-Pass, Jean, who came to Singapore ten years ago and now “works at a popular supermarket chain to support her family in the Philippines”.

“I heard that they were cutting down the number of foreign workers. Of course, we’re worried because there is a possibility that we could get cut. We worry constantly because they have been tightening since 2008,” she spoke to SBR in Filipino in an interview.

There are an estimated 180,000 Filipinos working in Singapore currently.

SBR said that foreign workers like Jean lose out as they remain in limbo about how longer they can still stay and work in Singapore.

Jean told SBR she hopes that the Singapore government would start to value the contributions of foreign workers like herself to Singapore’s prosperity, after she applied for PR twice and was rejected on both counts.

“I am very grateful to Singapore as the host country but I hope that they will do more for the foreign workers who help build Singapore,” she said.

“We are not just workers but we are humans who have families to support. What will become of us after the host country cuts our jobs after we have served for 10 to 20 years? We can go home to the Philippines, but then who will hire us when we are already in our late 30s and 40s?”

It’s strange that Jean is asking the Singapore government for help to get jobs instead of her own Philippines government.

Singapore PMET: Hiring companies not helping locals

Meanwhile, in an interview with Transitioning.org, a support site for the unemployed Singaporeans, a 38-year-old PMET local named Philip who recently lost his job as Deputy Contact Centre Manager felt that companies are not doing enough to hire locals.

“I have a couple of interviews since Dec 2018 and also Jan 2019. As there were many people looking for similar roles, companies have more choices to choose from, therefore chances of being reemployed is lower,” he said.

“Companies are not willing to pay for a local with the same amount of experience as a foreign talent. I do understand that fresh grads are targeting to have a starting salary of $3000 and above without relevant experience, whereas they can get a FT with more experience at the same package.”

“It is the hiring companies that’s not helping local Singaporeans,” he said, adding that living expenses have gone up but salary isn’t.

“I do feel that this (foreign influx) needs to be controlled. Singaporean PMETs need to be given a chance to learn and climb the corporate ladder.”

It’s a common knowledge that if a company has a foreigner in-charge of HR, he or she would tend to favor their “own kind”.

And in the case of Employment Passes, there is no quota for companies and there have been cases where companies overstate the pay for the workers in order for them to qualify for EP.

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