“Is Singapore my home, daddy?” A seemingly innocent question asked by my 4-year-old son.
Early Saturday morning, I brought him to Universal Studios Singapore at Sentosa. There was a performance by street dancers at the Sesame Street area.
It was a performance my son enjoyed. During a part of the performance, the dancers asked the audience which part of the world they came from. The dancer would announce the country followed by the audience response. Of the countries announced, there was a big response from the mainland Chinese, Philippines and Indians around.
Singapore was the last call. There were quite a few Singaporeans in the audience of course, but when Singapore was called out, most of them (me included), did not acknowledge the call, we just kept quiet. After the performance ended and we walked away, my son asked me,”Is Singapore my home, Daddy?” A part of me died.
I wanted to tell him with all my heart, “Yes, of course! This is your home! You’ll grow up here, work here, live here, get married and have kids here, and die here!” But I couldn’t… My brain reminded me that Singapore is a big business, a corporation. A place where Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the KPI, a place where the elite live well while the poor suffer in silence, or be shamed if they voice out their discontent.
To anyone still reading at this point, let me tell you this: I’m an ordinary middle-income Singaporean. I work my way up the social and corporate ladder, have a Singaporean education, a Singaporean wife and all things Singaporean. I served my NS and completed my reservist, pay my income tax on time, and do the occasional volunteer/donation work at the neighbouring old folks home.
I work as hard as the guy next door, be they local or foreigner. My working hours are normal office hours (830am – 530pm) but on top of that, there are late night (sometimes as late as 12am), and early morning (as early as 7am) conference calls. My pay increment is minimal, not enough to even beat the yearly inflation, but I take these all in my stride. I don’t grumble, I keep quiet, and I continue to work.
But some of my peers do not accept that. They quit, and what does the company do?
For every Singaporean worker that leaves, three foreigners come in to take his place. PMET positions, mind you. Not low-level positions.The whole mix in my company is around 30% local and 70% foreigner.
Many Singaporeans I see are becoming desperate now. The only job they can do is to drive taxis, be hawkers, small-time push cart business owners.
What about the jobs that are related to our education we spent almost17-20 years to get? They’re all being snapped up by the so-called foreign “talents”. “Talents” because they are not talents at all! They have totally unrelated educational background or working experience — they do not know the terms and lingo in related fields. Some of them even have fake certificates.
The recent government policy calling for companies to place vacancies in the jobs bank for jobs under S$12,000 is not going to solve the problem as the selection criteria is still subjected to managers’ own discretion. There is simply no way the government is able to influence the final selection of the candidate.
In my personal opinion, “hiring Singaporeans first” has to start from the heart and brain. For a Singaporean hiring manager, he/she has to feel for fellow Singaporeans and make a sound decision to hire the best Singaporean in the selection process.
For non-Singaporean hiring manager, it is always compelling to hire their own country folk for emotional reasons but there has to be a thought process and confidence that Singaporean can also do the job. He/she has to know it is a MUST to consider Singaporeans first and hiring foreigners or people from his/her countries is the last resort.
And to answer the question asked by my son, I almost cried when I replied him, “Yes, this is our home, but only for now.”
Mike Tan, 38