MP's 2 ideas to protect S'pore execs' jobs

MP's 2 ideas to protect S'pore execs' jobs

ENSURING that firms do their due diligence to fill a job vacancy with a Singaporean, and stipulating a dependency ratio for the number of foreign professionals that can be recruited.

These are two initiatives that Member of Parliament (MP) Patrick Tay will be pushing for, to safeguard the jobs of Singapore's professionals, managers and executives (PMEs).

Speaking to My Paper yesterday, Mr Tay said that, while he had first raised these proposals in 2011, they are especially relevant in the light of the recently released Population White Paper.

The White Paper projected that two thirds of Singaporean workers are expected to hold professional, manager, executive and technician jobs by 2030. That would translate to about 1.25 million Singaporeans, compared to 850,000 currently.

Mr Tay, the director of the National Trades Union Congress' (NTUC's) legal-services department and PME unit, said that PMEs he spoke to recently are "increasingly feeling the heat" from foreign PMEs. Anecdotal evidence from feedback he received suggests that there are many foreign PMEs in the banking and finance sector, as well as in information technology and communications.

He proposed a set of "Conditions of Eligibility", or COEs, that employers must fulfil before they can hire a foreigner. The conditions would involve three aspects: labour-market testing, a foreign-PME dependency ratio and for firms to have a "Singapore core".

The first would require employers to show that they have done their best in trying to hire a Singaporean for a job, through job advertisements and career- placement services. Only when none of the local candidates interviewed are suitable can a foreigner be hired.

"(Employers) could be taking the easy way out by getting a foreigner. We are trying to minimise that," said Mr Tay.

Still, he acknowledged that there could be niche industries or critical skill gaps which require foreigners.

The foreign-PME dependency ratio proposed is akin to the quota system for mid- and low-skilled workers in some sectors.

The Singapore-core condition could refer to having key management positions occupied by Singaporeans.

While the COEs are "sharp and resolute", and will entail additional costs for employers, Mr Tay proposed that the conditions be targeted, such as applying to sectors where there is a high concentration of PMEs.

For instance, the bulk of employees in the shipyard industry could be in rank-and-file positions, compared to IT companies, where many employees could be PMEs.

Among the many PMEs who have approached him for help, one case stands out.

The highly-qualified man in his 50s was from the finance and banking sector, but was laid off and under the impression that the company was downsizing.

But he later found out that his position had been filled by a foreigner, Mr Tay said.

"According to him, there are more like him in that position. (He said) it's just the 'tip of the iceberg'," the MP added.

While Mr Tay had raised these PME job issues during the recent parliamentary debate on the White Paper, he said he will likely bring them up again during the Committee of Supply sessions, following the Government's presentation of the Budget on Monday.

adrianl@sph.com.sg

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