PAP MP Josephine Teo recently called on the Government to “re-tune” the Foreign Talent Policy (see report below). She says that this is to reduce our “over reliance” on foreign workers.
If that sounds a wee bit familiar, that’s because the Singapore Democrats have been saying this for quite a while now – ten years to be precise. We have been advocating our Singaporeans First Policy since the turn of the century and we campaigned on it in the 2001 general elections. It is engraved in our manifesto (see here).
We invite readers to compare what we have proposed with what the “labour” MP is now saying:
SDP: The foreign talent policy adds to the burden of Singaporeans by indiscriminately allowing foreigners to seek employment here.
Teo: Reduce the foreign worker quota in sectors with stagnating or falling productivity.
SDP: Require the Government and employers to employ foreigners only if locals cannot be found for the job. This will ensure that only qualified foreigners will be allowed into Singapore.
Teo: Raise the quality of foreign workers allowed in, by setting higher skills standards and tightening regulations to ensure their superior qualifications are what Singapore requires.
But even as she calls for this re-tuning, she inexplicably excuses her party bosses and instead blames the local companies, saying that they chose “to hire foreign workers as an easier, cheaper option to meet higher orders.”
Wait a second, isn’t that what the Government is trying to do, bringing in foreign workers because they are easier and cheaper to ensure GDP “growth”?
Ms Teo adds that by restricting the number of foreign workers, companies will be forced to “review their work processes and improve their standards and this will lead to a boost in productivity.”
That’s PAP-cum-NTUC-speak. In simple English it means that Singaporeans are paid so lowly (because they have to compete with foreigners) that they are demoralised and have to work another job or two to ensure they earn enough to survive. Being underpaid and overworked is the biggest destroyer of productivity, not some mumbo-jumbo “work process”.
Still, we’re glad another PAP MP now supports our alternative policy. Mr Inderjit Singh and even the prime minister have been echoing an idea or two from the SDP. (See here)
It’s good to note that Ms Teo has finally seen the light. The only question that remains is: What took her so long?
Re-tune foreigner policy
6 Aug 09
Labour leader Josephine Teo wants the Government to ‘re-tune’ its foreign worker policy to arrest the declining productivity of Singapore workers.
Mrs Teo, who is also a Member of Parliament, has three suggestions on how to tweak the policy to reduce the over-reliance on foreign labour in sectors where the problem is rife.
Doing so will force the companies to review their work processes and improve their standards and this will lead to a boost in productivity, she said.
Mrs Teo, an assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), was speaking to about 150 workers of Tien Wah Press at the printing company’s ceremony to mark National Day on Thursday.
Her call echoes a growing chorus in the labour movement for measures to halt the slide in labour productivity, or output per worker. It dipped 15.4 per cent in this second quarter, compared with the same period last year, continuing a steady decline since end-2007.
But the fault does not lie with Singaporean workers because they ‘have been working as hard as they have been in the past’, she said.
She blames the local companies, saying they failed to work smarter during an economic boom, choosing instead to hire foreign workers as an easier, cheaper option to meet higher orders.
Singapore has around one million foreigners in its workforce. About 870,000 are unskilled work permit holders labouring in construction and as domestic helpers.But falling productivity is an ‘unintended consequence’ of the foreign worker policy, she said, which she described as fundamentally sound.
She proposed changes in three areas:
One, reduce the foreign worker quota in sectors with stagnating or falling productivity.
Two, raise the quality of foreign workers allowed in, by setting higher skills standards and tightening regulations to ensure their superior qualifications are what Singapore requires.
Third, ‘reward’ industries or firms that are productive with a higher foreign worker quota.
Mrs Teo, who had urged the Government to re-look the foreign worker quota during last year’s Budget debate, said she is re-visiting the issue to offer another option as a solution. She stressed she is not casting her call as a ‘foreign versus local’ debate.