In the fourth of a series of National Broadcasts, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Sunday (June 14) that the Government will intensify its efforts to bring the best foreign talent to Singapore.
His comments come as Singaporeans, who were already worried about foreign competition, face an unprecedented loss of jobs in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking about the Government’s plans to improve Singapore’s infrastructure for the next generation, Mr Chan said: “We will also intensify the efforts to attract the best ideas and talent to compete on our side, and complement our strengths.
“Initiatives like the Global Innovation Alliance connect us with talent hubs across the world. We will make ourselves a more attractive safe harbour for talent, ideas and intellectual property, to grow more businesses and create better jobs.”
The minister, who is also the ruling People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Second Assistant Secretary-General, added: “Competition is intense. Talented people, including our own, can go anywhere.”
Acknowledging citizens’ concerns about foreign competition, Mr Chan said that closing Singapore up “is not the answer” and painted the movement to bring foreign talent to Singapore as one that would improve the well-being of Singaporeans.
He said: “I know many Singaporeans are concerned with foreign competition, but closing ourselves up is not the answer. We cannot escape competing with the world, and proving our mettle. We will give our workers the training and support to excel, and we will ensure that the competition is fair. This is the best way to improve the well-being of our people.”
This is not the first time Mr Chan has asserted that foreign talent is an advantage for Singapore and Singaporeans. In August last year, he said that these foreigners are not competing with locals, but are “competing for Singapore”.
Speaking to Bloomberg about a Government scheme that would make hiring foreign talent easier by providing more flexibility for employment pass (EP) applications for foreign employees, Mr Chan said:
“Singapore has never limited top talent coming into Singapore … These are the people that we are looking at who can run huge project teams of hundreds and thousands of programmers. These are the people who can take technology companies to the next lap.”
Stating that the Government has been “tightening” the intake of lower- and mid-skilled foreign workers, he claimed that the “top” foreign talent that Singapore wants to import are “competing for Singapore” instead of taking jobs away from Singaporeans.
He said: “These are not people competing with the average Singaporean, these are the people who are competing for Singapore.”
Mr Chan’s latest remarks on foreign talent come as Singapore anticipates an unprecedented loss of jobs in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.
Just last month, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package that aims to provide 100,000 jobs, internships and traineeships to workers amid the global economic downturn.
Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who was tapped to chair the National Jobs Council, subsequently said that Singapore will be impacted by the bleak global economic outlook and said that Singapore workers must be “realistic” as they face an uncertain labour market.
Calling on Singaporeans to consider other opportunities like temporary jobs and internships in cases where they cannot get a job, he cautioned that not only will jobs be lost as the Covid-19 pandemic persists, but there will be “far fewer” new job vacancies than the number of jobs that will be lost in the next six to 12 months. /TISG