Rethink foreign labour laws

Rethink foreign labour laws

It was with a feeling of nostalgia that I read about the closure of the Lei Garden outlet in Orchard Road.

I recalled the good old days when we enjoyed the fine food and excellent service at this restaurant.

Unfortunately, it is not the only one closing down because of the manpower crunch - apparently it is difficult to find workers, given the restrictions imposed on foreign manpower.

The question is whether the authorities are capping the number of foreign workers at the right level.

I heard of a Malaysian who has been working in a service company in Singapore for a long time but may not have her work permit renewed because of the current foreign worker policy.

I don't think people gripe about such employees, and generally Singaporeans recognise that we need foreign workers in the service industry.

The concern has been more about the number of foreigners at the executive and management levels in industries such as banking and finance.

Even as some businesses struggle to fill their service jobs, foreign graduates continue to be employed here in large numbers.

I have heard that some of them may even be coming in on inflated salary packages, which would make them eligible for employment passes, and then paying part of the money back to their employers.

Locals first

Such unscrupulous practices must be stopped, especially because these foreigners may not be the best qualified for the job and may be shutting out more suitable Singaporeans or pushing them down to lower positions.

Before issuing employment passes, the Manpower Ministry must check the age, qualification and experience of foreign applicants and ensure that the employer has attempted to hire locals first.

I have no objection to foreigners being employed here if their credentials are proper and they are generous in sharing their skills, experience and knowledge.

But I do get upset when I hear that equal opportunities are being denied our citizens by foreign managers who prefer to employ those of their own nationality.

The authorities need to take a closer look at the hiring process for managerial and executive positions as it can be a platform for training tomorrow's leaders, and affects the future of Singapore.

At the same time, they should review the cap on foreign workers in the service sector and related industries.

From reader Chua Kim Choo

This article was first published on JULY 8, 2014.
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