Singapore—Jobs, as well as the presence of migrant workers, are important issues for many Singaporeans, especially now, as the country seeks to recover from the economic impact of the Covid pandemic. It’s no wonder that these topics are discussed by residents when Members of Parliament go on their walkabouts.
MP Jamus Lim (Workers’ Party – Sengkang GRC) took to Facebook on Sunday (Nov 29) to write about one resident from Anchorvale who told him that in his experience in the construction industry, the issue is not that Singaporeans don’t want to work in that sector. The issue is that the cost of living nowadays has risen faster than the salaries they’re given.
Dr Lim, an Associate Professor in Economics, along with fellow Sengkang MP Louis Chua, stopped by the coffee shop at 330 Anchorvale to talk to residents who were having breakfast.
The two MPs met a man named Daniel, who works in construction.
Dr Lim wrote that Daniel had expressed “his appreciation for our alternative voices in Parliament,” as well as talked about the issues that Singaporean workers face in the construction sector, “which he felt was inundated by foreign workers.”
Daniel made it clear, however, that he has no negative feelings about foreigners on a personal level. In fact the person he was having breakfast with was a friend from the Philippines.
Dr Lim wrote that Daniel “felt that Singaporeans were being shortchanged in terms of opportunities and, perhaps more importantly, salaries.”
Daniel explained to the Workers’ Party MPs, “It wasn’t that Singaporeans didn’t want jobs in construction…. It was that the cost of living was rising faster than salaries, which precluded more locals from pursuing such jobs.”
Dr Lim went on to write that one of the arguments that the WP has long held is that the labor share of income in Singapore is too low. This is a chronic problem in specific industries, including construction.
“Suppressing wages by deploying foreign workers may seem like a panacea for keeping costs down, but it also discourages the more intensive utilization of complementary capital, which would raise labor productivity (and, ultimately, wages),” he added.
The WP MP also wrote that overly relying on low-cost labor may possibly prevent “the sort of innovative deployment of labor and capital that is essential to elevating (true) total factor productivity.”
He added that the party is not against migrant workers, similar to how Daniel feels, but the WP wants to make sure that “the incentives for hiring Singaporeans are not gamed, that foreign talent that we hire truly bring something to the table that Singaporeans lack, and that the flow of foreigners into the country is well-managed.”
He wrote that this is the kind of sustainable immigration policy that the WP would like to see develop in Singapore.
His remarks were in keeping with what he said in another Facebook post from Oct 17, when Dr Lim wrote that “Singaporeans are not instinctively anti-foreigner.”
“Singapore has always been a migrant nation, and I believe that we are made stronger by earnest immigrants who contribute to our economy and make us a more diverse and sophisticated nation.
I have also routinely stated my impression that Singaporeans are not instinctively anti-foreigner; they just want to have a fair chance in their competition for jobs and opportunities, and to be supported by the government for the sacrifices they have rendered as citizens.”
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