“Make no mistake about it, Singapore needs foreign talents (FTs),” says Mr Francis Yuen.
The topic of retrenchments and the need to protect the Singapore core have been widely discussed recently.
The issue triggered more debates while the country was going through the COVID-19 pandemic’s adverse effects on the economy.
Mr Yuen, in an article published on the PSP website, explained in detail why Singapore needs FTs.
He is alright if they are “genuine FTs” brought in to “complement the workforce and not to replace them.”
He mentioned that the term is often used loosely during public discourse in Singapore and misunderstood or coined inappropriately.
With the Singapore’s open economy and continuous commitment to upgrade and hone its skills, “make no mistake about it, Singapore needs FTs and their expertise to fill in talent gaps and to help cross fertilize ideas with the local citizen core,” said Mr Yuen.
By definition, he said talents refer to highly skilled or highly experienced individuals.
“They are needed to complement our workforce and not replace them,” said Mr Yuen. The problem lies with the “not-so-talented” FTs that are “brought in through floodgates, displacing our local talent on many fronts in the process,” he added.
To address the situation, Mr Yuen proposed that FT policies must be very clear to attract the right pool of individuals.
From there, the policies must be regulated and managed to complement the local core. “This is all the more needed now to prepare the ground for our economic resurgence post-Covid,” he noted.
“Jobs that can be performed by locals should not then be given to foreigners without strong justification,” said Mr Yuen.
He mentioned that policies should be established and enforced to drive such behaviour and not be dependent on market expenditure and the interest of individual companies’.
“Hence if we recognize that many of the so-called FTs are really just ordinary foreign workers (FWs) competing with our locals, often on an unlevelled playing field, then we must institute clear directives on hiring practices to manage this quandary.”
Three-step proposal to address FT and FW situation
Mr Yuen pushed for a clear strategy of where Singapore is heading and “how government policies can help channel local PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) into taking on the right jobs to help bring us to the next level.”
Mr Yuen provided three steps to addressing the FT and FW situation. The first was to map out a blueprint how to bring Singapore forward under the new normal.
Next would be to look at the available resources, including human capital that is needed. From there, the gaps of talent could be filled with “efficacious policies to attract and harness genuine FTs, while reducing excessive FW numbers to free up employment opportunities for locals.”
There are close to 400,000 foreign PMETs now in Singapore, said Mr Yuan. “For sure, not all of them are FTs. We have to be clear what FT means to us.”
He noted that importance of transparency and impartiality to achieve such goals and avoid unnecessary speculation and emotionally-charged discussions which are both unhelpful and unhealthy.
Members from the online community agreed with Mr Yuen’s sentiments, hoping such concerns could be brought up in parliament to propagate action.
“Really, no talent from locals? What a joke,” commented Facebook user Roy Kam who wondered if the issue was in the standard of education in Singapore.
Others gave personal experiences on the number of FTs “with a questionable level of competency” in the workplaces, saying this confirms the existence of the problem.