Category Archives: Jobs and Places

Lessons for Singapore from U. S. IT Majors

It requires no analytical, engineering brain to grasp the key message hitting home from the decision of IT majors Infosys and Cognizant to hire thousands of Americans, to deal with curbs on job visas for foreigners.

No Green Cards if you guessed it right — that the over-reliance on H-1B visas is not the result of any shortage in local resources but because easy immigration enabled the import of cheap, under-qualified personnel!

As the report linked to below points out, Infosys will hire 10,000 Americans over the next two years. Cognizant also plans to ramp up local hiring in the Land of Opportunity and may exceed the number quoted by Infosys.

The two companies were among the many the Trump administration had blamed for abusing the H-1B visa programme.

There are lessons for Singapore from it – strictly enforce a “hire Singaporeans” policy and businesses will fall in line. Firms are prone to having their way amid a complicit, pro-business environment.

The “isms” Will Disappear

Tighten the screws and all the “isms” will disappear – racism, sexism, ageism! It will also help deal with local unemployment.

Keep it easy and that is a surefire way to lead to resentment and worse.

If the perceived dearth of talent is true, so is the reluctance of companies to hire and train locals!

G Joslin Vethakumar 

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http://m.timesofindia.com/business/international-business/visa-woes-cognizant-to-ramp-up-hiring-in-us/amp_articleshow/58537816.cms

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Raising of Re-Employment Age is No Big Deal

Only One Decision Will Address the Issue: Cutting Down Import of Foreign “Talent” / Mediocrity

So, Singapore has raised the re-employment age of eligible Singaporeans to 67 from the current 65. While this has become law and is a welcome move I don’t think it is any big deal for two reasons:

  1. This law will be difficult to enforce in a country that is more friendly to businesses than its constituents. Also, the key word is “eligible” and employers can trot out any number of excuses that the government will lap up.
  2. Young graduates are still finding it difficult to get entry-level jobs.

The one action that will have been meaningful is to cut down all import of foreign workforce by at least 75%. The employers will then automatically be obliged to hire local talent. Resisting it will only mean that they are unwilling to provide suitable training to the locals or they simply want cheap labour. Both are unacceptable!

And all hell will not break loose! If they are unable to bring local resources to fill their job requirements they should go the virtual hiring route and rely on a remote workforce.

As I had argued in several of my posts earlier, businesses that are not ready to wake up to the new dynamic don’t deserve to exist. They can pack up and set up shop wherever they like. 

Singapore will still not be the loser. Lower populations will ensure a better quality of life for Singaporeans and jobs for all without the overpopulation mess we are in currently.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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English Graduate Lands a 250k programming job with Airbnb

…after rejecting an offer from Google

Here is a fascinating, inspiring story about how a poker player with a degree in English landed a US$250k software programming job with Airbnb.

He had rejected many offers earlier, including one from Google. http://www.businessinsider.sg/silicon-valley-engineer-negotiated-a-starting-salary-from-120k-to-250k-in-just-a-few-weeks-2016-4/?r=US&IR=T#.VxzQknF97nA

He picked up coding skills from a 12-week bootcamp! That is how simple programming is!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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2016 – My Wishlist for Singapore

Singapore typically loves to do everything it does with a lot of fanfare, taking decisions on behalf of the people with the assumption that they would benefit the country.

They mostly have but I have begun to get the sense that what was achieved in the first four decades of its life has been squandered away in the last decade.

time-magazine

I am talking about the quality of life for Singaporeans which has taken a dip of late because of the government’s excessive focus on boosting the country’s population, not paying adequate attention to its size.

quality-of-life

Inward Orientation: Now that SG50 is behind us, Singapore has to look at ways to reinvigorate its citizens with an inward orientation.

Past solutions may not work for challenges of the day. They may have served the country well in the first 50 years, but Singapore is blessed with well-educated people now.

The landscape and dynamics are different, so saying stuck with the same-old policies (boosting population, keeping local universities off limit for the bulk of Singaporeans, a focus on money, money and money, etc.) will not work.

Fresh thinking and bold new ideas are needed as Singapore steps into year 51 of its journey.

Here is my wishlist for Singapore – some are those that I articulated at the start of SG50 but they are still relevant.

People-Friendliness More Critical Than Business Sympathies

A people-friendly dispensation from the government will justify the name of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). In my view, it has so far been business-friendly which is welcome. But any people-related action must take into account that Singapore citizens also belong to the species called homo sapiens, not just foreign people!

Showing empathy with and interest in promoting business in a manner that conflicts with citizen welfare is anomalous. Assuming that a thriving business is in the interest of the people is true only to a limited extent.

PRs are not Singaporeans

Generally, all country-specific data tend to combine both citizens and Permanent Residents as that may present a more rosy picture of any situation than real ground realities.

Any statistical research must avoid this clubbing. PRs are still foreigners and are here to make money that they can stash in their home countries with no loyalty attached to Singapore. Imagining that treating them on a par with locals will inspire a commitment to the country is akin to living in a fool’s paradise.

Insurance / MediSave / MediShield

Nowhere is the business-friendly culture more evident than in the insurance sector. All insurance companies in Singapore protect ONLY their interests, not that of the people.

Trying to get a policy that will pay 100% of your hospital bills without having to pay upfront is like a wild goose chase.

healthAnd if you had any pre-existing conditions, forget the idea of getting a policy as insurance companies love to chase only safe bets.

In other words, they will want all of the money that individuals pay towards their policies but with little benefits for policy-holders.

Even for corporate group insurance that will come smooth for every employee has been made stringent with companies like Prudential.

The government’s own schemes such as MediSave / MediShield also make little sense. If a person is not able to use his own MediSave amount in full for meeting medical requirements then what the heck are the CPF deductions for?

Worse, if your employer credits, say 5k, into your account, CPF unilaterally decides to put the bulk of it in your MediSave account if it was yet to reach the minimum balance.

I will want the government to stop taking away money from my CPF account and parking it under MediSave. I find keeping our funds locked with no meaningful way to use it unacceptable.

Roadmap to Trim Population

For me, Singapore must come up with a roadmap to trim its population. It is way too dense, affecting the quality of life for residents severely. It is around 5.5 million today, having nearly doubled in two decades.

I will want it to go back to 3.5 million and this should not be difficult as 50% of its population is made up of foreigners. Imagining that a low population will affect its economic prospects is a fallacy. The quality of its people is vital, not quantity, for success.

2013216142437818580_20In a world that is going increasingly robotic, with Artificial Intelligence gaining pace, boosting population shows a lack of farsightedness. I find this amusing in a country that is seen as a technology trailblazer.

Economic Chest Not at Cost of Quality of Life

Even large countries such as the US and Australia are not going overboard filling their shores with foreigners. Let us not build our economic coffers at the cost of the high quality of life that Singaporeans enjoyed not too long ago.

Whether my wish crystallises or not, I will take solace from that enduring Beatles’ number, Let it be. If a city bursting at its seams is what Singapore wants, let it be, let it be!

Young and Old – Jobs are Scarce for Singaporeans

Recent reports have indicated that both young Singaporeans and those beyond 40 are finding it extremely tough to find jobs.

That nails the lie of businesses screaming that they are finding it hard to hire people. They will have an axe to grind – like bringing in people of their own clan from overseas and at lower costs.

Skills Gap?

If there is a skills gap in Singapore, as I have heard from some of the foreigners here, then whose fault is that? Of course, the government’s! If the bulk of Singaporeans are kept out of the universities here how can we bridge any perceived gap?

4-lessons-from-companies-closing-the-skills-gapMoreover, businesses must have an inclination to train local people if there is any skills gap. Most jobs do not involve any rocket science. Skills can be picked up easily. Even the so-called foreign talent they hire come with zero skills. Most pick them up only on the job.

  • Foreign talent is welcome if that is designed to fill in some gaps here, not at the cost of Singaporeans with the same skillset. Import of talent has to be need-based, not because of any “more-the-merrier” policy.

Singaporeans, both fresh graduates and experienced professionals, are getting the short shrift because of what appears to be a lax immigration policy despite efforts to apply some controls.

If businesses want to pack up and go because of any imaginary labour crunch they will be the losers. They are here to make money, not serve the country! Stemming easy immigration will also help tackle discrimination of all hues at the workplace.

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An imaged borrowed from the Web

Education

Priority has to be given to Singaporeans in university admissions as the lack of it is forcing locals to move out of the country to study. Having some of the best universities here is of no meaningful value if prime courses are grabbed by “foreign talent” and Singaporeans have to go elsewhere in search of learning.

Xenophobia – Liberals warn of an anti-foreigner sentiment raring its head in the country. The government has to take some blame for it. The country is still not xenophobic but, if that happens, the biggest victims will be Singaporeans themselves as the minority races among them can be easily targeted.

May the next 50 years be even more golden than the first 50 with a people-first emphasis where peace, prosperity and harmony will continue to reign!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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When it comes to Jobs, Singapore is Still Old Fashioned!

But some Companies are Using Freelancers

Technology has permeated every aspect of life in Singapore, giving it the wherewithal and potential to become the world’s first smart nation.

But there is one area where the country is still old-fashioned — JOBS.

Why Not BPO!: Most of the foreigners in Singapore hold white-collar jobs that could be easily outsourced. Companies in the West have been tapping the concept of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) for roles that do not require an in-country presence.

Even an Outsourcing World Summit is being held the last 18 years not just to source business but also to articulate the value to industry through the BPO idea. The 18th edition of the Summit is currently under way in Phoenix, USA – http://www.iaop.org/summit.

So what is stopping companies in Singapore from embracing that full-scale? Simply because they have been able to flood the country with foreigners! They can hire cheap labour from developing countries. But that is only one part of the gambit. The other is MNCs being able to bring in people from their parent countries facing unemployment issues.

Cramming Singapore to Prop up Economy: And why is Singapore allowing that? Having people on site in Singapore does prop up the economy as they earn here, spend here and pay their taxes here. That said, there are foreigners holding employment passes and permanent residence but are posted overseas on assignments.

While companies love to whine about an acute shortage of local talent, if that is true, why aren’t they relying on freelancers who are based worldwide?

Freelancers, an Alternative Labour Pool: A report in today’s edition of The Straits Times points out the some companies are indeed using freelancers to the extent possible, thereby saving on costs since they do not have to pay CPF and give them insurance benefits.

That is encouraging even if Singapore freelancers have to compete with those based overseas. If there is such talent available locally they will not have to look beyond our shores. So it is a level-playing field with no prejudice against locals!

Immigration Must be Based on Genuine Needs: In a recent post on the glut of foreign engineers in Singapore amid the global shift to offshoring, I had argued against overpopulating the country and make life more difficult for its citizens. I must reiterate that again here – let immigration be based on genuine needs and not imagined ones.

I hope the government does not get carried away by what people like Victor Mills have been doing – ridiculing Singaporeans with a broad brush and suggesting that some small companies are closing shop here and moving to neighbouring countries because there is not enough talent here for them to do business.

The Straits Times‘ Insane Tirade: Even as Singapore has been very liberal with immigration, The Straits Times keeps coming up with insane pieces on how there is a lack of adequate professional talent in Singapore and how businesses are having trouble hiring people from overseas.

One such recent piece from its Editor, Warren Fernandez, even argued how Singapore was paying the price of closing the doors to foreigners. The common perception is, and I agree with it, that Singapore is paying the price of keeping the door too wide open for foreigners.

But then gibberish is a regular staple of The Straits Times.

This is the Golden Jubilee year of Singapore (SG50) and it is my wish that reports sidestepping key issues are not relied upon and the Government stays in touch with ground realities. Rosy data on the job market generally only skim the surface.

Singaporeans need a better quality of life here, and that cannot happen with unbridled growth in imported labour and overpopulation.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Reports on Singapore Job Market Sidestep Key Issues

Singapore has figured that the best way to sidetrack the issue of immigration and employment is by putting the spotlight on non-PMET jobs that locals turn their backs on. For extra flavour, it can be spiced up with data that there are more such jobs available than there are workers.

This is precisely what the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has done with its recent report on unfilled vacancies in Singapore. A report today (by Priscilla Cabuyao) in The Straits Times goes into it, wondering why locals are disgruntled despite the rosy data.

These are jobs that offer salaries in the range of S$1000-S$1900. As Singapore is consistently ranked as one of the most expensive places to live in, one does not have to be too insightful to see why Singaporeans are not interested in such jobs!

There are two options that the Government can consider:

  1. Initiate drastic measures to bring down the cost of living significantly, or
  2. Introduce minimum wages (instead of pointing to European countries that have minimum wages but still have high unemployment rate – they have social security that gives them doles there!)

If either of the above is implemented then the vacancies may disappear fast!

Secondly, I don’t think Singaporeans will oppose filling up those slots with foreign labour as long as they do not spike up the population too much in an already overcrowded country.

Their biggest concerns are over PMET and STEM jobs that they keep losing to foreigners.

Jobs Bank and S$12k Jobs: Any job that pays more than S$12,000/month does not even need to be advertised in the Jobs Bank that the Government created not too long ago.Businesses can straightaway fill them up with foreigners as they deem fit.

I think this cap must be done away with as it clearly undermines Singaporeans!

What the cap means is that companies need not worry about considering locals with all the required skillset and can simply go ahead and bring in people from overseas if the jobs they have involve a pay scale higher than 12k!

Shortchanging Locals: This is not a business-friendly policy, it appears to me that it is just an environment where Singaporeans (those who hold Singapore passports, not PRs) are shortchanged!

Moreover, companies advertise positions aplenty even when they have no openings for the roles they mention. They are just testing the market. Also, in some instances, the same positions keep appearing periodically even if they are filled through their own internal resources.

I am not sure how the numbers add up in the MOM report. If it just factored in advertised positions then that is not a credible approach.

To me, a serious effort needs to be initiated to go to the bottom of the issue. Shallow reports and reviews will not cut!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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STEM Shortage in US Turning Serious

But Singapore is overflowing with non-STEM resources

It is almost impossible for any country to turn its back on foreign talent. Some skills will always be in short supply due to factors such as low population and a mismatch between learning and employment. Plus, there will be jobs that the locals will shun.© Copyright 2014 Corbis Corporation

Even the U.S. has an acute shortage of experts in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) disciplines. A CNBC report on this today points out that three million jobs in those areas will go unfilled by 2018.

There are just not enough students in the U.S. who are interested in pursuing STEM courses.

Perhaps Singapore is also facing a similar issue because the stringent school environment (O / A levels) is acting as a deterrent for students here. And Singapore is happy filling university slots for those courses with students from overseas when locals need to be encouraged to opt for STEM.

Why should Marketing, HR Talent be Scarce in Singapore?

But it is not just STEM jobs that are being grabbed by foreigners in Singapore.

Even areas such as Marketing, PR, HR, logistics and communications that fall out of the realm of, to use a banal expression, rocket science are going to the so-called foreign talent, tapping the other acronym – PMET (professionals, managers, executives and technicians).

These are skills that can be easily acquired. Still, I find Singapore importing them in large numbers in its quest to boost the country’s population and fulfil the quest of some employers, mostly multinationals, for some diversity in their workforce.

Just some easily-acquirable silly qualifications from foreign universities are enough for them to find a footing in this little red dot.

Where is meritocracy in this? Is Singapore still thinking it is a meritocratic society?

Most of these foreigners, in fact, learn the tricks of the trade only on the job after moving in here. Singapore also provides funds for them (these are open for both PRs and Singaporeans) to acquire skills through its workforce development programmes.

If indeed Singapore thinks that they are skills that require extraordinary knowledge then that is a crying shame for the country’s education system. Have Singapore’s national universities failed to equip Singaporeans with the skills needed to thrive in a world that requires them to market themselves well?

I had blogged about this through a post last year.

Singapore has to do some serious rethinking on learning and jobs at least in its golden jubilee years so as not to let its citizens down.

Singaporeans have always been open to genuine talent that is needed here, but expecting them to accept foreign mediocrity at their own expense is not fair. A tiny country where about 50% of the jobs are held by foreigners is not a happy scenario for Singapore. It may even end up with the “country of fools” tag because of the unbridled torrent of “talent” from across its seas!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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