Singapore—In Parliament on Monday, September 2, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said that although the issue of bringing in more foreign talent is a delicate one, the country should not adopt an “inward-looking, protectionist approach” either.
Mr Chan acknowledged that because of employment and other opportunities in society, pushing for more foreign talent is an issue that can be “easily stirred up,” and assured that Singaporeans come first.
“We will never stop putting Singaporeans at the heart of everything we do and will continue to develop every Singaporean to their fullest potential so that they can fulfil their aspirations and seize opportunities in Singapore and beyond.”
However, at the same time, in order to meet a “surging demand,” it is necessary for Singapore to add foreign workers from all across the globe, and to not do so will be to the country’s detriment.
“If Singapore sits back and does nothing, we will almost certainly be left behind.”
Patrick Tay, Member of Parliament for West Coast, had asked if the Tech@SG programme is still necessary, given the current economic situation, as well as the focus on solidifying the Singaporean Core. The Tech@SG programme is an initiative that facilitates technology firms in hiring foreign talent.
However, the Trade and Industry Minister answered that the demand for jobs in the technology sector greatly exceeds the local supply. A recent Straits Times (ST) report was cited by Mr Chan, which stated that the demand for jobs in the tech sector had risen by 20 percent, but the supply of workers for this sector came up short.
He said, “Companies have also given our agencies feedback that we lack experienced software engineers and product managers. These are often people that can marry both technical leadership and commercial acumen, manage larger tech teams in the hundreds and thousands, and are highly valued because they are in short supply.”
But the lack of skilled tech workers is experienced all over the globe, with countries such as Thailand and France now introducing special visa initiatives designed to attract skilled tech workers to their shores, he added.
Mr Chan said, “We have only a small window to build a critical mass of high-end professionals, start-ups and companies. There will only be a few such nodes globally. How we do today will decide whether we make it as a tech hub, or not. We must move now, and move fast.”
He continued, “Deep tech industries and companies are the linchpins for the future economy. Singapore must develop our tech ecosystem and ride this growth, to create more opportunities for Singaporeans.”
The Trade and Industry Minister also argued that the country may lose its “competitive edge”, and underlined how important it is for Singaporeans to learn how to work with employees from all over the globe.
“In a world where multi-sectoral, cross-discipline and cross-cultural teams are increasingly common, Singaporeans must learn how to work with people from all around the world,” he said. “This will increase their competitiveness as individual employees and make them more attractive to employers.” -/TISG