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ST Forum Letter Reply – Businesses committed to Singaporean Core

Saturday, 27 February 2021 [Singapore]

We thank Mr Jeffrey Law Lee Beng for his letter (Find out why firms prefer to hire foreign professionals, Feb 27). Amidst the many challenges posed by COVID-19, Singaporeans are understandably concerned with manpower competition and employment security.

The vast majority of businesses in Singapore are committed to recruiting fairly based on merit and growing a strong Singaporean core. Earlier this year, 29 Trade Associations and Chambers representing a wide spectrum of Singapore’s economy issued a joint statement underlining the business community’s commitment to fair hiring and employment practices. While there are a small minority of companies that may not yet practice fair hiring, they are not representative of the vast majority of businesses, who strive to adopt progressive human resource practices and support the development of Singaporeans. 

We must not overlook the reality that Singapore is a small country with a limited workforce. For Singapore to sustain its economic growth and standard of living for its citizens, we need to augment the Singaporean core in our workforce with foreign employees. There are areas in our economy where there are skills gaps and areas where there are simply not enough Singaporeans to take up the jobs critical to keep businesses going. Foreign employees help us to bridge these gaps and they work together with their Singaporean counterparts towards the success of businesses here. If businesses are not able to meet their skills and manpower needs here, we will lose them, and this will mean loss of job opportunities for Singaporeans. 

By taking in foreign employees judiciously to complement the Singaporean core, we can build a stronger Team Singapore for the benefit of Singapore and Singaporeans. For example, in sectors like hotels, food services and retail, foreign employees form part of the vital frontline teams that provide the quality service enjoyed by Singaporeans. 

Our vision for Singapore’s workforce is one where diversity is celebrated and individuals are respected, trained, and developed on an equal opportunity basis. When hiring, businesses should always consider the Singaporean core and there are existing mechanisms to ensure this. However, they cannot just look at nationality, and should hire the best-fit candidates based on merit, considering also the candidates’ skills, attitude, and experience. Even as businesses remain pro-Singaporeans and consider Singaporeans first to build a strong Singaporean core, we cannot afford to be anti-foreigners or to artificially limit jobs to Singaporeans only. Doing so will be detrimental to the future of Singapore and the livelihood of Singaporeans. 

Mr Kurt Wee, President, Association of Small and Medium Enterprises
Mr Andrew Kwan, President, Restaurant Association of Singapore
Mr Lam Yi Young, CEO, Singapore Business Federation
Ms Kwee Wei-Lin, President, Singapore Hotel Association
Mr Douglas Foo, President, Singapore Manufacturing Federation
Mr Joseph Ong, President, Singapore Nightlife Business Association
Mr R. Dhinakaran, President, Singapore Retailers Association

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