Minister: Need foreign IT talent, but IT unemployment 2nd highest?


If we are really short of IT workers, such that we need to import foreigners – why is the IT unemployment rate the second highest, among all the job categories?

I refer to the article “Minister Ong wants to import more FT programmers while NUS produces paltry number of IT grads” (theonlinecitizen, Sep 22).

It states that “In an interview with Bloomberg on Wed (19 Sep), Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said Singapore needs to bring in foreign talent in areas including software programming while the country re-balances its education system to meet future demands.

A key issue is whether Singapore has a critical mass of workers to make itself a vibrant economy that will attract investments and encourage enterprise, he said. Singapore will maintain little restriction on foreign labor for high-end jobs while keeping a quota system for lower-skilled industries including construction.

“Talent is very short everywhere in the world – AI talent, software programmers,” Minister Ong said. “We let them in because we require a critical mass for the sector to take off, while we continue to train Singaporeans for those jobs.”

Netizens ask why can’t more Singaporeans be trained to do high-end jobs

Minister Ong’s comment did not go well with many netizens, who asked why the government cannot train more Singaporeans to do these high-end jobs in the first place.

Some are worried that bringing in ‘foreign talents’ to fill these so-called ‘high-end jobs’ is nothing more than an excuse to bring in more cheap foreigners to flood the job market.

Opposition member criticises Minister Ong

Then, opposition member Lim Tean writing on his Facebook page also wonders if our education system has failed since Minister Ong keeps saying to get in ‘foreign talents’ to do the job.”

“Information and Communications” 2nd highest unemployment rate?

According to the latest MOM report (Labour Force in Singapore 2017) – “Information and Communications” had the second highest unemployment rate of 5.7 per cent, among all the job categories, in June 2017.

In the previous year, it was the highest, at 5.5 per cent, among all the job categories, in June 2016.

So, don’t you find it rather strange that we keep hearing the rhetoric that this sector has a lot of vacancies and demand particularly for PMETs is increasing, and now even the need to import more foreign workers?

Competition from foreigners?

Is it due partly to Singaporeans losing their IT jobs with fierce competition from foreigners and permanent residents (PRs) – and finding it hard to get re-employed?

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.