Singapore—Many have expressed concerns over foreign workers in Singapore, which was already an issue even before the coronavirus pandemic.
Worries over the job security of PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians) especially those no longer in their first youth, have abounded, along with concerns with the need for upskilling and reskilling workers in order for them to keep pace with swiftly-changing technological advancements.
The issue of the foreign workforce became a focal point in Parliament last week, pointed out an editorial in The Business Times (BT) on Wednesday, September 9.
And while the piece acknowledges that there are ‘grievances’ from, Singaporeans who have been displaced by foreigners in the job market, it asserts that, at this particular time, the country must remain “open to trade, investment, and talent from the rest of the world.”
This is the best way “to protect jobs for Singaporeans” according to the article.
All over the globe, the effects of deglobalisation and protectionism unleashed by United States President Donald Trump can be felt, including in Singapore. The current coronavirus pandemic has only heightened these effects, given the devastating effect of the pandemic on countries’ economies, particularly in the trade, tourism and investment sectors due to borders being closed.
The BT piece quoted founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who said in 2007, “Singapore is a superstructure built on what? On 700 square kilometres and a lot of smart ideas that have worked so far – but the whole thing could come undone very quickly.”
Some of these ideas for the country is to be “a global hub for aviation, transhipment, bunkering, petrochemical and finance,” as well as “incentivising Singapore companies to invest overseas.”
All these ideas are now under threat due to the looming specter of Covid-19, which stands to have a greater effect on the economy than “separation from Malaysia or the pullout of the British’s Far East naval base from Sembawang,” since the borders of other countries remained open throughout these historic events, unlike in the present time.
Added to this are trade tensions between the two global superpowers, the US and China.
Because of this, the piece in BT asserts, “Singapore leaders have to work even harder at reopening borders with like-minded trading partners and maintaining the country’s role as a trusted and honest broker in international trade and relations – even as the US and China continue to ratchet up tensions between them.”
The coronavirus pandemic is forcing countries, not just Singapore, to find ways to open their borders safely even while a vaccine has yet to be developed.
The editorial commended the green lanes established for travellers from certain countries to enter the country, even as it reiterated the need for Singapore to remain open. “As we batten down the hatches, turning insular or shutting out outsiders is not an option. Unless and until we come to terms living with the Covid-19 threats, including staying open, thousands more jobs will be lost in the months ahead.” —/TISG