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Businesses must hire fairly, groom local staff

It is important to keep Singapore open by ensuring work teams are diverse and that there is investment in human capital development


TEN years ago, as a labour member of parliament still on the backbench, I called on the government to ensure that as our economy recovered from the 2008 global financial crisis, most of the new jobs created would go to Singaporeans.

One foreign diplomat, a friend, asked politely if I was anti-foreigner. I am not. Neither are most Singaporeans.

Besides the fact that all our ancestors had been “foreign”, Singaporeans understand that to create good jobs for ourselves, we need to stay open to trade and investments.

Why then did I make that call? To register the point that the primary responsibility of any government must be the well-being of its people, and that includes having good jobs.

In my present role as manpower minister, I often get complaints from businesses that our rules on hiring foreign manpower are too tight and limit their growth. Quite often, they express a worry that Singaporeans are not hungry and are choosy about jobs.

On the other hand, Singapore workers are often concerned that the rules are too lax. They express worries about having to compete with foreigners. They sometimes feel that capable Singaporeans are passed over for good jobs, and that some foreigners are not as good as they were made out to be.

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