SINGAPORE: Singaporean blogger and financial adviser, Leong Sze Hian, recently voiced his concerns about the unequal distribution of job opportunities and wages in Singapore through a social media post.
He questioned the reluctance of the ruling government by the People’s Action Party (PAP), to provide a comprehensive breakdown of job statistics, specifically comparing the job growth among local-born citizens, foreigners, PRs, and new citizens.
In a recent YouTube video, Mr Leong raised a pertinent question about the lack of inquiries from Members of Parliament regarding the alarming job statistics in Singapore.
Mr Leong emphasized that Singapore witnessed a record-breaking job growth of over 200,000 positions last year.
As per the March report from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on the labour market, the total employment for 2022 showed a notable upswing, reaching a record high of 227,800, resulting in a total employment figure of 3,625,100.
Of this growth, resident employment expanded by 26,300, primarily in outward-oriented sectors such as financial services and information and communications. The substantial increase in total employment, however, was largely contributed by non-resident employment (201,600).
MOM clarified that this was mainly attributed to recruiting Work Permit holders in sectors like construction and manufacturing, as businesses filled vacancies after the relaxation of border controls.
Despite this increase, non-resident employment has only recovered to 99.2 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels.
88.5% job growth allocated to foreigners in 2022
Regarding the 2022 job growth, Mr Leong said 88.5% of this growth was allocated to foreigners, leaving the remaining 11.5% for Permanent Residents.
“So you add the PR to the foreigners. You’re looking at 90% of the record drop growth last year went to non-Singaporeans.”
He said an estimated 52.3% of the total workforce, excluding migrant domestic workers, are non-native Singaporeans, and he categorised them as “foreigners, PRs and new citizens”.
He further questioned why the government hesitated to provide a breakdown of the job statistics for the public’s perusal, urging for greater transparency.
“Why is the government so scared of being transparent? ”
Long-term income inequality in Singapore’s labour market
Mr Leong highlighted the issue of stagnant wages by pointing out that over the last 21 years, approximately 54% of the workforce in six out of the eight occupational groups experienced little to no real increase in their earnings.
For instance, he illustrated the scenario of an administrative assistant earning S$1500 over two decades ago, and noting that today’s minimum starting salary for the same role remains at S$1500, according to the current occupational wages formula.
“So can you imagine? 21 years, you had not been increased every year you earning less money.”
Concluding his message, he spoke to the camera, “You know what to do when the next election comes,” implying that Singaporeans should wield their voting power wisely.
Alternative parties MPs challenge Manpower Minister on local employment concerns and foreign workforce policies
Notably, several Members of Parliament previously directed inquiries to the Manpower Minister, expressing concerns about the local employment rate and the government’s foreign workforce policies.
For example, Mr Leong Mun Wai, a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament from the Progress Singapore Party, raised questions in July regarding the surge in resident employment by 2,800 in Q1 2023.
He sought information on the proportion of the increase attributed to non-residents becoming residents and requested a breakdown of the increase in terms of full-time permanent and part-time employment.
In response, Minister Dr Tan See Leng clarified that data concerning the net change in resident employment based on workers’ prior residency status, and their employment type (full-time or part-time), “are not collected in the quarterly labour market reports.”
In January of this year, Gerald Giam, the Workers’ Party MP for Aljunied GRC, directed a query to the Minister regarding the significant increase of 75,900 new jobs in Q3 2022, with 71,100 going to non-residents.
Additionally, he inquired whether the Minister expects most new jobs created to go to non-residents over the next four quarters; and what steps is the Ministry taking to enable more Singaporeans to take up these newly created jobs.
It was questions from Mr Giam that prompted the Minister to break down the Q3 2022 figures to employment distribution among non-residents under different passes—specifically, Employment Passes (11,300), S Passes (5,900), and work permits or other passes (53,900).
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