By: Jobless Millennial
I am a fourth generation Millennial Singaporean. I am writing this article as a rant anonymously and this is the first time I am doing so to pen my thoughts down to vent my frustrations hoping I will feel better.
In this article I will call out certain regulations the Government have enacted to reduce foreigner inflow which doesn’t appear to be helpful but I will also add my thoughts on what can be done better to help unemployed PMETs like myself.
I recently lost my 5-digit-per-month salary job as the listed company I was working for was losing money on a consolidated level. Though Asia is making money, we are subsidising loss-making operations in Europe. I had felt the cut coming as recent departures were not replaced, new businesses were not approved for additional headcount and I am always tasked to cut cost but alas the cost to be cut was me.
Prior to the cut I was already actively job searching but the cut came unexpectedly, though not a shock it affected me nonetheless.
What irked me more was that a foreigner took my place – a subordinate reporting to me drawing 40% less.
No doubt in the name of cost savings it was justifiable to release an expensive Singaporean. My ex boss was also a foreigner amongst the many foreigners in my work place.
The other hit was that I was also due for reservist in 2 weeks and had submitted my call-up letter to my finance so they are aware they are letting me go before my ICT. It was a double whammy for me since working for rank pay during reservist is painful.
It’s a cliche but it’s so true – NS for Singaporeans, jobs for foreigners. We are protecting the interests and assets of foreigners who have come to rob us of our rights.
The triple whammy is that income taxes this year is higher than the last year due to receiving the rebate for last year. Since I got a salary bump the year before my taxes this year was significantly higher.
Losing my job was brutal for me financially since I am paying for 2 properties and a car.
I also have a S$100K unsecured loan debt which I took on to pay the deposit for my second home. My wife isn’t working and I have school going children. The first thing I did was to adjust my salary expectations up to 50%. Within 1 week I have applied to almost 500 jobs but none of them successful or called for an interview.
The truth is even if I am willing to accept a lower pay, people will be dubious of my intentions or simply strike me off as overqualified and won’t stay long in the job. I don’t blame them since I was a hiring manager and have this bias myself.
What the Government could have done better is to ensure regulations are in place that when a Singaporean PMET can be easily replaced by a foreigner on a lower salary, this needs to be reported and a valid explanation given.
Understanding the need for financial viability for any company so this kind of “cost savings replacements” should eat into some form of a quota for the company failing which they have to stop such errand practices that affects locals.
The current guidelines in place which pays notice in lieu for terminations are not sufficient since a job search can take anywhere from 3-6 months or even longer. Perhaps a lump sum compensation payment of 1 month per year times number of years work in addition to the payment of the notice period should be considered.
This payment like those similar to redundancy payments should be made regulatory and not as guidelines only.
With regards to Government assistance schemes, people like me are totally left out as I am also not eligible under the Wage Credit Scheme (WCS) due to age and salary.
It appears that millennials are left to fend for themselves. The WCS is also applicable to unemployed PMEs aged 40 and above drawing a salary less than S$4,000 and the Government will co-fund your employer up to 40% of your salary.
I really love my country, I enjoy the peace, stability and prosperity but all this came at a high cost to us. Any Singaporean can regurgitate the issues on hand such as frequent MRT breakdowns, high cost of living, overcrowding etc… There is no solution in sight from the elected Government.
Singapore is one of the four Asian Tigers and comparing to South Korea – an equally developed economy I feel that quality of living is probably higher.
Looking at Taiwan where wages are slightly lower but costs of home ownership and cost of living is much lower also appeals to me.
Singapore spends a great deal of money on security, not that it is not a good idea but compared to Taiwan and South Korea who faces more imminent threats, our military spending appears to be high.
Taiwan has scrapped compulsory military service though South Korea still practices it.
Whenever we go for reservist of which I am almost completing my military obligations, the same scenarios plays over year by year. People are sleeping bunks morning to evening – could we have exercised more prudence here by organising tighter schedule rather than having just one lecture per day? This could translate into high cost savings from paying the civilian salaries.
There are many lapses in our first world Government as uncovered in the recent Auditor General’s report but I won’t discuss them here.
Our Government have been tightening foreigner inflows but is it enough? We are still headed for 6.9 million people and it is easy to surmise that the increase in the population from the current 5.4 million will be imported.
I fear for my children, what will this mean for them in the future for securing jobs or getting a home?
Due to the recent adjustments in property prices my current property is in negative equity. The previous housing minister had allowed prices to skyrocket and when adjustments were made the last few years, the market though didn’t crash had made many current home owners in my situation.
In the previous generations buying a property was a sure fire way to reap a handsome profit for retirement but now it’s not the case, you buy a leasehold property for 99 years and in your golden years you have to do a reverse mortgage just so you can survive. I am not sure I see logic in this.
It is apparent that foreigners are both the woes to our troubles but their presence results in a free market economy which is an engine for our economic growth.
This will be a simplistic comparison but had we not traded economic growth we will be in a situation like Taiwan – lower wages but a generally lower cost of living with a lesser stress lifestyle and I do like that!
The measures that the Government had put forward to curb foreigner inflows appear to be superficial only. Let’s look at the current Employment Pass scheme where qualified foreign talents are competing with Singaporeans for jobs.
The jobs bank as of July boasts more than 60,000 vacant jobs. The purpose of the jobs bank is to hire foreigners – why I say that?
To hire a foreigner paid under S$12,000 a month, you need to advertise for 14 calendar days. Many companies already have candidates in mind when they do the job postings so they just wait out the period. They have absolutely no intention of hiring Singaporeans.
To prove my point even further, there is a scheme called Intra Company Transfer where a foreigner who have been working in the home location for the company for at least 1 year will qualify for exemption under the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF). This means if they are already an existing employee, they can skip advertising which gives Singaporeans zero chance at even submitting our CV since no advertising is required. This is a big loophole in itself!
We should emulate what the Australia Government does by asking to see proper records of interviews and also having to advertise for at least 1 month.
The current measures are “wayang” in nature and does little to curb the inflows of foreigners on EP and these are the jobs that we want.
For candidates with a higher salary coupled with fixed accommodation allowances hitting $12K is easy and this circumvents the ruling of advertisement.
The Government should collect data from employers and verify number of Singaporeans getting employed via jobsbank to reassure us that this measure of theirs is working.
I personally have applied to over 100 jobs on Jobsbank with not a single reply. Why? If an employer already have a foreigner candidate – why bother interviewing Singaporeans?
The new initiative under (TAFEP) Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices is meant to ensure companies have a strong Singaporean core but their recent move to raise the minimum EP salary to $3,600 starting 1 Jan 2017 won’t make a dent in hiring foreigners since this is a negligible difference.
S Passes are subjected to quota depending on industries from 15-20% but EPs are not.
Why are EPs earning minimum S$3,300 for foreigners not regulated? These are the jobs we want! The jobs under S Passes starting at S$2,200 are quota dependent but not EP? I am scratching my head here – shouldn’t this be reversed? A quota for lower wage jobs under work permits and s passes but a ticket to hire freely without restriction for EPs. Where does this leave Singaporeans?
I can understand we want foreign talents but hiring a foreigner at $3,300? How talented can this individual be against a local?! Perhaps the qualifying criteria for EPs should be raised to at least S$5,000 to reflect their expertise and other fixed accommodation allowance or cost of living allowance should be removed from the qualifying criteria to prevent “inflating salaries” to meet criteria.
Some people are not aware that Malaysians are treated differently from other nationalities. Their qualifying salary to obtain EP is S$2,200 as opposed to S$3,300 for other nationalities. I don’t know why but maybe it is a political reason but fact is that Malaysian graduates are taking away our jobs as their culture and upbringing is very similar to ours and they pose a credible threat to us for jobs since there is not much difference in hiring a Singaporean or Malaysian except for the salary. A Malaysian fresh graduate will accept $2,200 and can speak multiple languages such as Cantonese to serve HK and Southern China market, Bahasa to serve Indonesia and Malaysia, Mandarin to serve China and of course English.
Given 2 fresh candidates based on cost, it will be a rather easy decision to hire the Malaysian. I am not insinuating Malaysians are better but they are willing to accept a lower salary due to home country advantage and covert SGD to 3 times more MYR. No matter what salary they accept in Singapore it will be worth 3 times more back home so to them the difference is huge and given the current situation in their country, we can only expect more of them coming. I feel that the Gov should level the playing field for them by ensuring they only get EPs at the S$3,300 level.
My intentions are not to protect Singaporeans or make life difficult for foreigners but as a local shouldn’t we be entitled to a home country advantage? Any Government in the world should and must put their citizens first because we put them in that place through our votes.
However what I can proudly say is whenever I had to make a decision to hire a foreigner over a local I always made sure to hire a local not because I am bias but because Surprise!!!! – locals ask for less money than foreigners in my industry! Hiring a local was a no brainer since hiring a foreigner costs more in terms of levies for S passes and for those on employment passes, foreigners were also entitled to CPF top ups. Many companies want to ensure equity so CPF contribution top ups are given to foreigners.
Now you know why foreigners are flushed with cash because even if a foreigner and local are on the same salary the foreigner is 37% cash richer than us! 20% from not having to contribute CPF and taking the 17% employer top up!
My thoughts on this is that though this is a personal matter between the employer and foreign employee but isn’t this too much? Not hiring a Singaporean is bad enough but now you offer a cash top up to the foreigner. Most respectable MNCs practice this for equity reasons but I see no point since this is a legislative measure and no company is required to do this.
I think the Gov should step in to regulate that if employers want to hire foreigners then they are not entitled to simulate payments similar to our cpf. This is actually working in great favor to the foreigner and there is no reason to hire a Singaporean then.
More must be done to halt the hiring of EPs such as a quota of sorts or a levy since there are many industries with a highly imbalanced number of EP holders in IT and management consulting where foreigners can take up between 70-90% of the workforce.
Employers will always argue hiring Singaporeans can be expensive in certain sectors but in IT and consultancy, these foreigners are commanding 5 digit salaries. These are jobs that Singaporeans want! Within the IT industry I am perplexed that nationals from South Asia are given salaries that triple or quadruple when they take up job offers in Singapore. South Asian economies are developing in nature but yet when their nationals come they are suddenly elevated to expat salaries that are way above what an average Singaporean will command.
I feel sad for us because we have talented people but the opportunity is not given to us because these jobs are not even advertised since they exceed the S$12K mark.
What is even more alarming is the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) between India and Singapore which allows for free labor movement for Indian nationals into Singapore… I won’t discuss this here but if you google it will explain why there are so many Indian nationals on this little red dot. I am not referring to the construction workers but those working in banks and IT services commanding high salaries.
The next highlight is the ASEAN Economic Community promoting freer flow of people and goods between the 10 Asean member nations.
In time to come I think by the next generation our children will be competing with people from other ASEAN nations for lower – mid wage jobs and still at the same time compete with westerners, India and China for higher wage jobs.
I fear that day will come too soon.
For now I will return to my job search, determined not to be defeated, not to wallow in misery. I may have to look towards greener pastures overseas with hopes that those Governments will accept a local Singaporean like how our Government has graciously accepted their citizens.
I love my country and I enjoy staying here but I am not sure if my country loves me since so many hurdles have been placed against me leaving me at a distinct disadvantage.
The men in Singapore, facing discrimination in the workplace from foreigners. Facing discrimination in their love lives competing with wealthy foreigners – and we know why the birth rate is low?
Serving 2 years in the army is not enough and still having to go through another 10 years cycle of reservist.
Stagnant wages against rising cost of living and home ownership.
Paying for other taxes in addition to income tax such as GST, property tax and ERP etc.
Getting a local degree to then fathom why my degree is worth less than that from a degree mill of a 3rd world country.
Having to contend with overloaded and faulty trains.
I am loss for words myself as I think through how I could tolerate the intolerable injustice met out against me. Perhaps this is a good training ground for me and now I am ready to face the outside world which maybe a more brutal place but my hand has been forced since there is no place for me here anymore.
Happy 51st birthday Singapore. May this be the last that I celebrate with you as I look for my new life elsewhere.
I truly and sincerely wish you all the best. I know running a country is difficult but I only wished that you had looked out more for me, I really want to be a patriot but instead I have become the enemy.
Republished from Transitining.org.