Why Singaporeans Need To Be Given First Consideration For Jobs

For most people, financial freedom can only be achieved after a few decades of ploughing hard at a job. If the expenses are controlled well and the remainder is invested prudently during the working years, one could possibly look forward to a golden retirement.

However, the foundation upon which wealth is built for most is still a job; a good job. Our quarter-retirement was only possible because we worked hard at jobs that paid us decently well the moment we graduated. And most entrepreneurs started out as employees in companies too, only venturing out after gaining valuable experience and of course, savings.

Therefore, it’s been quite alarming to read that retrenchments are on the rise in Singapore, and judging by articles like this, many of us should be duly worried. I am hoping that companies lay off Singaporeans last and if new jobs are being created, Singaporeans would be given first consideration.

National Service (NS)

Before pro-NS readers heckle me, I belong to the camp arguing that there is no war in Singapore because of NS. But no matter how you look at it, the two years served in National Service has a huge opportunity cost. One could be studying or working full-time instead of donning greens and training in the jungle.

You might think this only applies to half the Singapore population since National Service is only compulsory for Singaporean males. However, for the ladies out there, it’s likely you have a father, husband, brother or son out there who has served the nation for the best part of 2 years. The opportunity costs also apply since the household income could be affected.

Even though we pride ourselves as a meritocracy, I am hoping the “Consider Singaporeans First” movement would help to truly level the playing field for Singaporeans. At the very least, it should provide a leg up to that Singaporean who has 2 fewer years of working experience than a foreign counterpart of a similar age.

Singaporeans must not be disadvantaged at the workplace because of a duty to our nation.

Resources provided to businesses from the government

Being a pro-business government, the Singapore government has provided plenty of help to companies throughout the years. From the Job Credit Scheme during the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) to the current Productivity and Innovation Credit Scheme (PIC), companies in Singapore have benefited tremendously from tax payers’ money.

By and large, the Singapore government had hoped that these benefits will trickle down and ensure that Singaporeans benefit. Whether it is jobs being retained or higher remunerations for Singaporeans in better jobs created.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if all these benefits are just being filtered to companies which are not committed to hiring Singaporeans?

What’s Being Done To Help Singaporeans

From the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF)  to the National Jobs Bank, the government has introduced a slew of measures in the past couple of years to ensure that there will be a two-third Singaporean core in our workforce. Incidentally, NTUC has been lobbying for these since a few years ago; for instance, Labour MP Patrick Tay has been lobbying for the FCF since 2011.


(Labour MP Patrick Tay has been championing for Singaporean Core and PMEs, including mooting the FCF idea in 2011. Source: Asiaone)

However, the Labour Movement is not resting on its laurels to further help Singaporeans workers. In their recommendations submitted to the Ministry of Finance for Budget 2016, NTUC has focused on four key themes:

  1. Strengthening the Singaporean Core
  2. Improving Productivity
  3. Enhancing Training and Skills Upgrading
  4. Improving Retirement Adequacy

Yes, one of NTUC’s main agenda for this year’s budget recommendations is ensuring a Singaporean Core in our workforce. Its recommendations covered worker segments from young/future workers, PMEs, mature workers, low wage workers and also self-employed and contract workers, including freelancers like me.

The labour movement’s call for the Government to review the Employment Pass criteria with a view to meeting the variegated needs of the industries whilst incentivising industries towards building a strong Singaporean Core. Companies which have shown commitment towards building a Singaporean Core should be differentiated from those who have not. This is to ensure our Singaporean workers have fair opportunities at their workplaces. At the same time, the Government should tighten enforcement on companies that show no intent to develop a Singaporean core of workers.

This follows Labour MP Patrick Tay’s rather recent speech at the Parliamentary Debate on President’s Address, where he had suggested that a PME dependency ratio – similar to that for work permits and S passes – be imposed for “problem sectors”. He believed that these sectors – particularly the IT (or some refer to it as Infocomm or ICT) and financial sectors – display a “weak Singaporean core” and a “weak commitment to hire and develop Singaporeans”.

He also suggested that stricter Employment Pass application conditions and requirements be imposed on companies in the problem sectors, i.e. the IT and financial sectors.

These measures would definitely help the retrenched Singaporean in his search for a job. Nonetheless, it’s common knowledge that older Professionals, Managers and Executives (PMEs) who have been laid off are the most vulnerable.

I am heartened to know that NTUC and the government is doing its best to ensure that Singaporeans are given first consideration for jobs.

But know what? It’s just as important that we, the workers, hold realistic expectations and more critically, do our part in keeping ourselves relevant. The signs are everywhere and there are so many articles and reports that talk about how dealing with ambiguity, adaptability and agility are key to continuous success at work, and how being multi-talented will be the game-changer.

So don’t be complacent. Otherwise, one could end up in a situation similar to this guy.


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6 thoughts on “Why Singaporeans Need To Be Given First Consideration For Jobs

  1. Marcus

    Yes, there are lots of company out there that do not have any intention of developing a Singaporean core. Not only SME, but MNC as well.

    I have been in a MNC that 80% of their headcount is non-singaporean. I dont see why the job cannot be fill by singaporean.

    I am not too sure how MOM manage to let this kind of things happen. it is the regional APAC office, which I think get lots of incentive from our government.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Marcus,

      Thanks for you thoughts and feedback. I do feel you and I am hoping the relevant bodies are monitoring these companies and issuing their form of “warnings” to them.

  2. g

    Why should a company be forced/incentivised to hire someone based on the person’s nationality? Shouldn’t a company first and foremost always find someone who is the best fit for the job? If companies are hiring fewer Singaporeans – could it be that these Singaporeans were not found to be fit for the job, hence shouldn’t the solution be to develop Singaporeans who would be better than any foreigners? And in the case that a Singaporean and a foreigner are both equally fit for a job, but the foreigner costs less, as businesses seek to maximize profit – wouldn’t the best business decision be to get the most value for the least cost.

    I think the challenge here is to develop Singaporeans who are the best value workers for money – wouldn’t all companies want to hire such employees? Protectionism is not really an answer, just take a look across the causeway.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi g,

      I personally think a balance has to be achieved.

      There would be companies that are more “short term” in mind, trying to squeeze out the last cent of profits and would hire foreigners once they cost less.

      However, one always forget that the success of a company depends alot on the stable external environment they operate in. If there is a high unemployment of locals, there is likely going to be social unrest which would destabilise the country.

      This is where I think the government can come in to nudge companies to think more “long term”.

  3. Joseph

    Government has a responsibility to protect the interest of her citizens. True meritocracy only exists in an utopian world. We cannot allowed corporations to only hire the cheapest or what they perceived as the best (including the hiring of their own). I support the NTUC proposal to take a sectoral approach towards the granting of EPs. While I admitted that there are challenges, Companies which do not hire Singaporeans should be scrutinised and punished if required.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Joseph,

      Thanks for reading and agree that the government has to nudge the corporations in the right direction.