Singaporeans divided on govt managing foreigners' participation in economic prosperity

The topics included economy and jobs, health and social support, home and living environment, and education and lifelong learning.

Published: 24th October 2022 11:57 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th October 2022 11:57 AM   |  A+A-


Singapore (Photo | Wikimedia commons)


SINGAPORE: Singaporeans are divided on whether the government has struck the right balance in bringing foreign workers and protecting local jobs, as the manpower-short country works out directions to maintain its economic prosperity.

About 40 per cent of respondents to an online survey agreed with the government policy on foreigners' participation in the country's economic activities while 44 per cent disagreed, and the rest said they "did not know enough to answer."

The survey of 1,000 Singaporeans and permanent residents on forwarding Singapore topics was commissioned by The Straits Times and conducted by consumer research firm Milieu Insight in September.

It was published on Monday.

The topics included economy and jobs, health and social support, home and living environment, and education and lifelong learning.

The increasing presence of foreigners, both in labour-intensive industries and professional executives in businesses, has been widely debated in public and Parliament as Singaporeans fear losing jobs in management posts while the government has been explaining the manpower shortage which could hamper economic growth.

Commenting on the survey, strategic advisory consultancy BowerGroupAsia Singapore managing director Nydia Ngiow noted that even among younger respondents, a sizeable number believe the government has not struck the right balance.

She said this could be a reflection of their insecurities around job prospects resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the return of more foreign workers since Singapore's reopening of borders in recent months to revive the economic activities.

"It will be crucial for the government to continue engaging this segment of the population, especially since this group will play a bigger role in upcoming elections," The Straits Times quoted Ngiow as saying.

National University of Singapore (NUS) sociologist Tan Ern Ser said younger Singaporeans who are increasingly more "future-ready" and experience less or no competition from foreign professionals at the entry-level are more likely to agree the right balance has been found.

In contrast, older workers are likely concerned about their prospects for re-employment and lack the skills that younger people and foreign professionals possess.

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He pointed out that seniors in lower-level jobs may also be concerned that the availability of foreign workers may render them less competitive should they demand higher wages, though the Progressive Wage Model may mitigate this concern.

Yet, younger respondents aged 34 and below were over twice as likely to indicate education and lifelong learning as a pressing concern than middle-aged workers, who picked it least, the daily had Tan as commenting on the survey.

NUS College vice dean of special programmes and sociologist Daniel Goh said younger Singaporeans are more receptive to messages from the government on this topic, as they experience the need for openness in the workplace and in schools.

They also get to know more foreigners and understand how much is shared between them, such as the aspiration for good lives for their future families and the global cosmopolitan culture, he added.

In contrast, the older generation faced the toughest competition and displacement in the labour market in the decades of immigration in the 1990s and 2000s, when attention to the protection of local jobs was not as strong as it is today.

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"This is something we need to take note of," he said.

"We often assume people are rational and will respond to logical arguments or self-interests, but we underestimate the power of experience and emotions in shaping lifelong attitudes and views," he said.

"Negative experiences in interactions between foreigners and locals can shape negative attitudes for life," the broadsheet quoted Goh.


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