More S’poreans feel they benefit from foreign talent: ‘Unbelievable’?


Don’t you feel that the survey findings that ‘more young people feel that Singapore benefits from foreign talent’ to be quite ‘unbelievable’, in the light of the deteriorating statistics on Singaporeans’ unemployment, employment growth, etc? 

I refer to the article “More young people feel Singapore benefits from foreign talent, survey finds” (Straits Times, Sep 28).

It states that “More young people in Singapore feel that the country has benefited from the presence of foreign talent, according to newly-released research findings.

An Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) survey found 62.5 per cent of 19 to 30-year-olds believe skilled workers who come here from other countries have contributed to Singapore’s development, compared to 45.4 per cent in 2010.

They also felt they have greater access to job opportunities and other forms of social resources – such as schemes under self-help groups like Sinda, the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) and Mendaki – as compared to foreign talent.

“But on the other hand, they also feel that Singaporeans shoulder more social responsibilities compared to foreign talent, so it’s a bit of a mixed bag,” noted IPS research associate Debbie Soon, who was part of the three-member research team.

Ms Wendy Baker, business development and engagement partner of talent consulting firm ICE Asia, pointed out that work visas, including renewals, are becoming more difficult to obtain in Singapore.

There was a rise in the proportion of respondents who viewed the presence of foreign talent as having a negative impact on societal cohesiveness here, from 38.9 per cent to 48 per cent.

They also expressed increased scepticism about the long-term commitment of immigrants.

The survey was conducted from June to November 2016, involving 2,013 participants aged 19 to 30. A similar study was conducted in 2010.”

Everyone whom I communicated with, found the findings that “More young people in Singapore feel that the country has benefited from the presence of foreign talent, according to newly-released research findings”, to be quite ‘unbelievable’.

In this connection, according to the Department of Statistics‘ web site – Total Employed Persons (foreigners, citizens & PRs) decreased from 3,570,000 in 2016 to 3,550,100 in 2017.

The Total Unemployed Persons (almost entirely citizens & PRs) increased gradually from 87,100 in 2012 to 106,900 in 2017.

The Resident Unemployment Rate (citizens & PRs) increased almost every year, gradually, from 3.7% in 2012 to 4.2% in 2017.

Since 31,849 new PRs and 22,076 new citizens were granted last year – and the majority of these new residents may be working – they may automatically be reclassified as resident employed persons (PRs & citizens).

So, would they make the resident unemployment rate look lower than it actually is?

Why is there no breakdown of the labour statistics for employment change or incomes. into citizens and PRs?

From 2007 to 2017 – 441,508 new PRs and 218,916 new citizens were granted, and the foreign population increased by 771,100, with about 47% of the total workforce last year being non-Singaporeans (excluding new citizens).

In the final analysis – with rising unemployment in the last 5 years or so, and possibly very little of the employment growth going to Singaporeans (which we don’t know because there is no breakdown into citizens and PRs) – to what extent has our liberal foreign talent labour policies contributed to the current state of affairs (rising unemployment, under-employment, many lower-income workers) for Singaporeans?

In this connection, the Government should disclose the incomes and employment growth statistics for Singaporeans, instead of just ‘locals’ (which includes PRs), in the public interest, and in line with the online falsehoods’ committee’s recommendation that the Government should give the reasons for decisions not to disclose information to the public, and to gain the public’s trust.

Leong Sze Hian


About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.