Is Singapore Attracting The Right Foreign Talent?

The Overseas Networks & Expertise (ONE) Pass was the focus of this Parliament sitting.  Minister for Manpower, Dr Tan See Leng spent a lot of time emphasizing the importance of attracting foreign talent, with which no one in Parliament or Singaporeans would disagree.  But we want time to question the Minister on the details of ONE Pass. As usual, there was limited time to get to the bottom of why there is the need for ONE Pass now, after COMPASS was announced in March only 6 months ago.

Despite the fanfare by the government, judging from the results of the Personalised Employment Pass since January 2007 and the Tech Pass since January 2021, it is unlikely Singapore will be able to attract much real talent.  We have attracted only about 1800 PEP and Tech Pass holders which account for only 1% of Singapore’s total EPs. This is because real talent like to operate in a more open, creative environment with higher potential.  Singapore’s economic potential is not high enough, because the Singaporean Core has been weakened and is generally underemployed after being displaced by the large number of foreign PMETs.

I asked the Minister whether we have been attracting the right kind of talent, since 95% of the EPs currently do not meet the ONE Pass requirements.  It is a fact that we have attracted many foreign PMETs who are willing to work at lower wages compared to Singaporeans.  Initially, they created jobs for Singaporeans because cheap labour allowed the uncompetitive companies to survive and the bigger companies to cut cost. But over time, these companies are likely to retrench more and more high-cost Singaporeans to boost their bottom-line.  Thus, the older Singaporean PMETs are the most vulnerable. Today, the concentration of foreign PMETs in many key sectors, accentuated by the manpower service providers, have made it increasingly difficult for Singaporeans to get good jobs. 

The ONE Pass will likely further entrench the current structure in the Singapore’s job market.  The existing top 5% to 10% of the EPs will get a 5-year pass and easy renewal for another 5 years.  Many of them will be employed by the manpower service providers who are willing to pay the $30,000 salary because they work for multiple companies. Their spouses can also do the work of an EP with a letter of consent without passing the test of merit.  This is an unbalanced foreign talent policy for Singaporeans which will potentially threaten the jobs of the Singaporeans in senior positions more than attracting new talents.     

I have also filed for an adjournment motion to speak on SPH Media Trust and the Sports Hub, but my motion was not drawn during the ballot with 5 other MPs, so I cannot pursue the matter during this sitting.  But I am not going to let the $900 million expenditure on SPH Media Trust and $1.5 billion spending on Sports Hub to become non-events. I will see what I can do next.  It is Singaporeans’ money, we must make our opposition voices heard.  Just imagine how much more we can do for needy Singaporeans with that $2.4 billion!

The AMK SERS petition is still being considered by the Public Petitions Committee.  Hopefully the Committee Report can be completed by end of November.

We continue to fight.  For Country For People.

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