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Malay Singaporeans raise concerns that they may be excluded from job listed on Govt-linked website

Nur Atiqa Asri implied that her cousin may be less likely to be selected if she applied for the job because she does not speak Mandarin

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Malay Singaporeans have raised concerns online that they may be excluded from a job listed on a Government-linked website, simply because they do not speak Mandarin.

Facebook user Nur Atiqa Asri spurred the discussion on potential hiring discrimination when she revealed on social media that her cousin came across a job listing for temperature screeners on the Government-linked mycareersfuture.sg website that said that it prefers if prospective employees are able to communicate with Mandarin-speaking visitors.

Nur Atiqa implied that her cousin may be less likely to be selected if she applied for the job because she does not speak Mandarin, even though she is well-educated and speaks excellent English. Sharing a screenshot of the job requirements, she wrote in a Facebook post published on Monday (17 Aug):

“My cousin who is Malay (and extremely well-educated and speaks excellent English might i add) has been looking for a job (as many are following layoffs in the pandemic) and came across this job description for temperature scanners on the Singapore government portal.”

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Nur Atiqa also shared a screenshot of a government advisory on job advertising guidelines. The document, which was published by the Government-linked Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP), lists dos and don’ts for companies placing job advertisements.

Clarifying that employers should justify the need for any language proficiency requirement, TAFEP stated that it is not acceptable to say things like Mandarin is an advantage in job listings:

It is unclear if the job listing Nur Atiqa flagged contravenes the TAFEP guidelines given the way the language preference was worded. The netizen, however, found the job listing “incredibly infuriating” and asserted: “I don’t care how you phrase it, you are indirectly excluding non-Chinese speaking applicants so GTFO. !@$@#$%^%&^%$#%!#$!@$”

Over 250 netizens shared Nur Atiqa’s post, most of whom were Malay Singaporeans. Over 100 netizens liked her post and those responding to her post expressed concerns that Malay Singaporeans may be at a disadvantage when it comes to securing jobs because many of them do not speak Mandarin.

My cousin who is Malay (and extremely well-educated and speaks excellent English might i add) has been looking for a job…

Posted by Nur Atiqa Asri on Monday, 17 August 2020

Last year, TAFEP asserted that candidates need to be selected on the basis of merit and that language should not be used as a limiting factor. It told the press: “The Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices require employers to hire on the basis of merit and not use language as a limiting criterion during selection or recruitment. 

“If the job requires the employee to use a specific language, the employer should justify how this criterion would apply, and affect the ability of the employee to perform the job.”

TAFEP added that complaints about alleged workplace discrimination related to language in job listings, interview processes and human resource practices have been on a downward trend in the last five years.

The agency’s statement, however, came on the back of an Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) and OnePeople.sg survey which found that the proportion of Malay and Indian respondents who recounted feeling discriminated against when they sought jobs has gone up since 2013.

The research paper reported that a whopping 73 per cent of Malays, 68 per cent of Indians and about half of those in other races felt they had been discriminated against when they applied for jobs. The high proportion of minorities feeling this way stood in stark contrast to the 38 per cent of Chinese respondents who felt discriminated against in their job search.

The survey also found that 80.2 per cent of Chinese respondents said that language was ‘sometimes important, important most of the time or always important’ when they hired employees while the proportion of Malay and Indian respondents who felt the same way was much lower, at 71.5 per cent and 73.2 per cent respectively.

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