Friday, October 28, 2005

Please don't blame it all on Singaporean workers.

Friday, October 28, 2005
Don't be picky if you want less foreign talent

The Government can and will cut down the number of foreign workers here — provided enough Singaporeans answer the call and take on jobs which they have typically shunned.

Manpower Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen said this yesterday in response to the slew of proposals submitted by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) on how the lower-income group can be helped. Tweaking the existing foreign worker policy was one suggestion.

Saying that the Government would "seriously consider" the unionists' proposals, Dr Ng, who chairs the Ministerial Committee on low-wage workers, told reporters: "(The labour movement) has highlighted certain sectors which they feel Singaporeans can do, and I agree.

"If we can find Singaporeans willing to take up these jobs, whether it's landscape artist, cleaning, healthcare attendants, then we should try to reduce our dependency on foreign workers."

But on the unionists' call for workers who earn less than $1,000 a month to be exempt from Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions, Dr Ng said he would prefer to study other alternatives, rather than depriving these workers of savings they would typically use to buy homes and for their retirement.

"The CPF system for our low-wage workers has served us very well. Ninety per cent own homes, some even own four-room flats," he said.

"The problem here is that would be sacrificing their home ownership aspirations, and for many of them, their Medisave and retirement accounts."

He added that he did not want a situation where many Singaporeans could not own homes because of a lack of savings, which would bring about many other problems to tackle.

The committee is putting together workable solutions and is on track to wrap up its discussions and make concrete recommendations by early next year, added Dr Ng. — Lee U-Wen

While I am glad that Dr Ng is prepared to reduce the number of foreign workers in Singapore, but it is should be clear to Dr Ng that Singaporean workers are not the only party responsible for this situation. It is a well-documented fact that many employers discriminate against older Singaporean workers and prefers to hire foreigner workers.

By reducing the number of foreign workers in Singapore, these employers would have no choice but to hire more Singaporean workers to fill the jobs. This will also exert pressure on the employers to increase their wages so as to attract people to work for them.

As for the CPF issue, although Dr Ng did have a valid point but as I suggested in my previous post the govt can increase the employers’ CPF contribution rate to soften the impact.

Some might worry that the tightening of foreign labour policy and increase in employers’ CPF contribution rate will lead to the outsourcing of jobs to other countries. However I believe the impact will be limited as many low-wage jobs like bus drivers, landscape artist, cleaning, healthcare attendants cannot be outsourced. Hence it is entirely possible to contain the effects of the above mentioned policies.


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