Singapore — On Wednesday morning (Sept 23), food guru K F Seetoh commented on reports that about 5,400 jobs were available in the food and beverage (F&B) sector, according to the print and online editions of The Straits Times (ST) the previous day.
According to the reports, the jobs had been available since April and that 40 per cent of them, or 2,070 positions, were for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).
Under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package, 16,100 jobs and training opportunities across different sectors had been created, according to reports from the Ministry of Manpower. Of these, 2,430 had been filled.
The ST reports, with the headline “About 5,400 Jobs On Offer In Food Sector Despite Covid-19 Pandemic”, quoted Manpower Minister Josephine Teo concerning how the industry has been affected by the pandemic, with food services suffering a heavy impact, while food manufacturing companies have done well.
Mr Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, dealt with the reports on his Facebook page, bluntly beginning his post by stating: I think the headline should be “5.4k jobs on offer in food sector that nobody is hard up for, since April”.
Referring to the reports that, of the 16,100 jobs created, only 2,430 were taken up, he wrote: “Dear educated policy masters, do you by now get the feeling that you rightly bred Singaporeans to aspire to higher mighty goals, not blue-collar precision engineering button pressing jobs with a clock in and out system?”
I think the headline should be "5.4k jobs on offer in Food sector that nobody is hard up for, since April". So 16k jobs…
The bottom line for Mr Seetoh is that these positions, numerous though they may be, are of no real help to Singapore’s hawkers, who are an important part of the country’s cultural heritage since these jobs are mostly blue-collar positions that Singaporeans “shun and can’t even do”.
He wrote: “Go ask the numerous restaurateurs and hawkers who are looking for fair and even above-fair-wage workers… and you’ll see why you need a serious rethink on that manpower policy. –– Hire at least 3 Singaporeans (who don’t want these jobs) before you hire a qualified foreigner and, oh, pay levies of up to $1,000 per month for each foreign staff.”
According to Mr Seetoh, many eateries are closing down for good not only due to poor sales, but also because of a lack of real support. “No one wants to help them fight this pandemic and get up for air and stay relevant.”
So, he believes, “more restaurateurs and hawkers will stand jobless at the hand-out and work-placement line — ironically being offered blue-collar F&B jobs”.
Furthermore, the lack of real help dampens “the entrepreneur spirit in our world class, potential Unesco F&B culture”, added the food guru.
His solution? To ring-fence the industry, in the same way as was done for the construction sector. This would allow “a new breed of entrepreneurs to enter the line with qualified foreigners in the region to help power their aspirations”.
He also suggested that the levy and quota system for these industries be done away with. “Ditch that levy and quota system for these industries, because that $7 billion in levies collected a year is not helping them at all.”
Mr Seetoh then brought the issue to a very personal level — asking that help be given to hawkers such as Li Ruifang, of 545 Whampoa Prawn Noodles at Tekka Food Centre, or Bilai of Kebabchi Charcoal BBQ. He made special mention of “rock star hawker Melvin Chew” who “need still rely on his aging and sick mother to help out at his ‘little duck stall’”.
He added: “Ironically, he was the one who created a massive FB page to help his other hawkers get through this pandemic … no help given to alleviate his manpower woes.”
Mr Seetoh ended his post by reiterating: “Ringfence these industries please!” /TISG