Category Archives: Singapore job scene

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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Filed under H-1B, Jobs and Places, Singapore job scene

Asia Brimming with People, Staring at Losing Jobs to Machines

Singapore Must Look at Trimming Population, Economy is Not Everything!

While the world has seen volleys after volleys the last few years on how machines will take away jobs from humans I am not certain the warning signals have been heeded to by establishments in Asia – a region that has the distinction of being the biggest contributor to the global population mess.

Stealing technologies and aping the developed West in everything except population control, Asia and the Islamic world have differentiated themselves from the visionaries in one area of life – that of the procreation variety.

For the logical mind, the alarming mass of human resources in Asia amid an emerging Artificial Intelligence (AI)-centric employment landscape is a matter of serious concern. 

Region of Opportunity?

Businesses, however, see Asia as a region of opportunity as they have more than four billion people to sell their ware to.

The affluent West is reaching a saturation point in terms of business potential, with the population paling to insignificance when weighed against Asia which is bursting at its seams.

Nonetheless, Asia, which should be the most worried, appears least perturbed primarily because it views the population boom as a boon as multinational companies will focus more on the region. That could keep the region’s economy buzzing even as an acceleration in people losing jobs is on the horizon.


Unemployment Creeping up in Singapore

This is precisely what Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was talking about in his May Day address, as reported in the local media. His message was simple: “Singapore’s economy is picking up and may do better than it did last year. However, unemployment is also creeping up

The implication, even a direct inference, is that the Government exchequer can be expected to expand while its constituents take a hit.

Economy in Transition? Or a Maturing Economy?

Mr Lee’s reference to an economy in transition is appropriate as the world is bracing up for major workforce disruptions, enabled by AI-based technological advancements even as billions of smart devices are bursting on the scene in an era of the Internet of Things. An era where people face the threat of having to jostle with the likes of robots and drones for jobs!

Where clarity evaporates is when Mr Lee says “As the economy matures, I expect that to creep up.”

in my opinion, Singapore is a part of the developed world and, therefore, already a mature economy. I don’t see any reason why maturity in the economy is not in place. So, actions are needed to change the course of the economy, with priority on jobs for locals and not on affluence of the establishment.

It may be a matter of fact that other developed countries have unemployment rates of 5 per cent or higher but that is not going to be of any comfort to those losing jobs. Particularly if job losses are due to easy access to foreign personnel.

Asia accounts for 60% of the world’s population, which is set to hit eight billion soon. China and Asia alone account for about 40% of the global population. China recently even abandoned its one-child policy as the idea of more people translates to more opportunities for businesses.

Singapore Must Trim Population

I do realise foreigners in Singapore are finding it hard to get permanent residence. If they are lending value to the economy I will welcome the granting of PR to them. But I see too much mediocrity from across the shores. As I had pointed out in my earlier posts, even foreign diploma holders are landing jobs here when locals with degrees find it a struggle.

Singapore must look at ways to trim the population early without doing all it can to boost it and make living in the country difficult for residents. If a country is made up of 40% foreigners that is a sorry state of affairs when even in countries that are hundreds of times bigger it stands at just around 20% – for instance, in the U.S.

There have been reports about Singapore continuing with its tradition of land reclamation to accommodate more people. That amid the threat of global warming, melting glaciers and rising sea levels gobbling up land!


SkillsFuture and “Adapt and Grow” Initiatives

Initiatives such as SkillsFuture and “Adapt and Grow” are laudable, given that upskilling and lifelong learning are essential amid the fluidity all around. Still, they appear to me as mere exercises in escapism.

Business that fail to tap outsourcing or technologies or show an unwillingness to train locals to overcome any gaps in skills can be allowed to scoot. They will be disadvantaged more than Singaporeans as at least they will get back the high quality of life, beyond lucre, they were used to.

If protectionism, in terms of trade and jobs, is in the interest of the industrialised West, it is their prerogative and the rest of the world seeking alms from them only amounts to looking for the easy way out, demonstrating a sign of weakness.

The answer lies in Singapore looking at the interest of its people first, even if that meant turning protectionist.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Filed under Artificial Intelligence, Robots Stealing Jobs, Singapore, Singapore job scene

Singaporeans are a Tolerant, Generous and Welcoming Lot!!

Or is it Complacence or Short-Sightedness or Fear of Whatever?

Foreigners take over their university places, particularly in key disciplines that are in demand.

“No problem! We still have fun. What if we cannot go to universities, we have Gardens by the Bay, cinemas, malls, Sentosa and pubs. No one can take such fun away from us.”

Foreign mediocrity leaves them behind on the employment landscape.

“Oh, stop blowing up the situation, we love to see them kick us out! And don’t we have the Jobs Bank where employers will need to post an opening and just wait for two weeks before they can shortchange us and hire foreigners?”

What $200,000 on Degrees Cannot Achieve, a $500 SkillsFuture Credit Will!

What about the Manpower Minister saying unemployment could rise in the country as quoted in the media today?

 “That’s a load of rubbish. It is just around 3% – or so say the reports! We don’t know if he is downplaying or overplaying, it may be much more! Also, isn’t the government giving us a hefty $500 as Skills Future credit when spending a paltry $200,000 or more in gaining degrees is not enough to get jobs?”

Dipping Quality of Life

Overpopulation because of the imports has destroyed the high quality of life so much so that Singapore is now just like any congested Third-World country.

“Ha, come on, doesn’t more people in the country make the Government rich? And isn’t that a sign of the new world economy where governments and businesses thrive and people — mere dispensable commodities? The more-the-merrier philosophy is fun.”

The IssuesCountry First for U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand

From the U.S. and the U.K. to Australia and New Zealand, globalisation has taken a deep hit, leaving foreigners there and aspirants hoping to strike gold there in disenchantment.

A liberal culture in those countries, thanks to their clamour for diversity, prevalent there for ages has seen local interests erode rapidly, making their Governments launch a “Country First” policy, rightly so.

But Singapore does not appear to be perturbed. Even diploma holders from overseas are easily finding jobs here when local degree holders struggle to land one. Moreover, they are from countries where their own reports have pointed to the unemployability of the bulk of even their degree-qualified engineers. A recent report even said that 95% of their engineers are unfit to be software developers.

Interestingly, today’s media reports suggest that the Smart Nation initiatives in Singapore are on track.

“To hell with robots, drones, Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things all of which will make jobs for humans even more difficult. Isn’t the “Foreigner First” policy designed to address that? Designing robots, that is! But the Government knows best”

No STEM education and no jobs, so perhaps social security/unemployment doles and free healthcare are in place to take care of citizen needs.

“That is the biggest joke of the day. Don’t you know such measures will impoverish the Government and drain it of its cash reserves?”

40% of Singapore Residents Foreigners, it is only 20% in U.S.

Importantly, the U.S. and other countries that are looking inward are very large in size with plenty of room to take on foreigners. But population density in Singapore is among the highest in the world.

Moreover, in the U.S., for instance, only around 20% of the population comprises foreigners. In Singapore, it is 40% (or more) and still growing.

“We don’t care even if it becomes 100%, with the overly foreigner-friendly climate driving all Singaporeans to other countries. Don’t disturb the life of harmony and affluence in the tiny red dot. The Government is on the dot every time and with everything, so it can go wrong!”

What faith!

As can be seen from this imaginary conversation with Singaporeans, faith in the establishment is good for the Government. For its constituents?

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Filed under Singapore job scene, Singapore Population

Jobs: Singapore’s Laudable New Initiatives

The Singapore Government appears to be finally getting serious about dealing with challenges in the employment landscape.

The actions it has initiated include:

Beyond Superficial Stipulations

All are laudable initiatives that are bound to resonate well with Singaporeans as well as the employers.

This is particularly so because they go beyond earlier superficial, peripheral plans such as the Jobs Bank under which openings for high-paying jobs had to be first advertised there. It is only if employers are unable to find suitable local candidates they can apply for an Employment Pass (EP).

I don’t think that is working well as employers favourably disposed to bringing in foreigners can trot out any number of excuses to justify their preference.

The new initiatives show the Government is ready to inject more funds towards helping Singaporeans find jobs and towards supporting businesses attuned to them.

Can Go Easy on Granting PR While Getting Tough on New EPs

I find that the Government has made the granting of permanent residence (PR) very stringent. The Government can get a little more lenient, with necessary vetting, to win the loyalty of PR applicants as they are already here on Employment Passes (EP).

Where the Government must be strict is on issuing new EPs and restrict any influx of more new foreigners and making the already overpopulated country even more crowded.

Once employers find it difficult to get new EPs they will automatically consider hiring suitably qualified locals without any age or race prejudices.

Campus Recruitments

But I am not seeing any big effort in ensuring young graduates find a footing even as they step out their institutions. Campus recruitments will perhaps need to be strengthened.

Also, for entry-level positions, I still see even multinational companies cite Mandarin as a necessity. That is, even for roles that require no knowledge of Mandarin for day-to-day functional work.

It may be difficult to quell that as even if Mandarin is not mentioned as a requirement in job ads, the employers can still choose to enforce that in the hiring process without any scrutiny.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Filed under foreign talent, Singapore job scene

The FT Factor – Aping the U.S. Not Right for Singapore

Foreign Talent (FT) is an expression that is often met with derision in Singapore because of the questionable quality of people being imported into the country.

It became a matter of concern two years ago when Singaporeans began to see a big dip in the quality of life here because of overpopulation through influx from across the shores. Not only were they losing jobs to foreigners even fresh graduates were finding it difficult to enter the workforce. Prime places in the universities in the country were going to foreigners, too.

To compound the situation, the government came up with a lofty plan to boost the population even further – from 5 million to 7 million in 15 years. Not often do governments come up with such insane decisions.

Quality of Life, a Casualty

Singapore was aping the U.S. in every way possible with an eye on the GDP and the economy. In the process, the quality of life has become a casualty.

But the U.S. itself is at a breaking point now after decades and decades of liberalism that disadvantaged Americans. The last few years saw more and more companies in the U.S. laying off American workers who had to train those from overseas who were replacing them. What gumption!

With the emergence of Mr Donald Trump as President, the administration is trying to turn the slogans, “America First” and “America for Americans”, into reality. And why not!

While one of Mr Trump’s first actions was to tackle any influx of terrorists he is also in the process of bringing about changes to the H-1B visa programme. Under this system, 85,000 “high-skilled” foreigners find employment in the U.S. each year, the bulk of them from India.

Through a recent order, the U.S. has suspended expedited processing of H1-B visa applications. But the administration also appears to have indicated that H-1B reform is not a priority for the U.S.

So, Indians can breathe easy! But will a “Singaporeans First” policy come into force in the country? I mean a meaningful policy that goes beyond slogans.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Filed under foreign talent, Immigration, Singapore job scene

Unemployment Goes Beyond Skills Gap

Pep Talk Alone Not Enough to Lift the Mood of the Young Amid a Slumping Economy

The Singapore economy appears to be taking hard knocks, with more unemployment looming.

When troubled times lurk, pep talk from leaders takes centre-stage. Last week one minister after another delivered reassurances to Singaporeans that jobs were available aplenty and more were being created steadily.

Today’s reports in the media had Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also bring up the issue, pointing out that “Singapore is at a new phase in its development – one in which the jobs available and the skills in demand are different from before and are changing rapidly.”

Precise Assessment

That is a precise assessment but “technology transforming industries and old jobs fading away” do not signal any sudden and dramatic shift. Just like driverless cabs will not go mainstream for the next two decades at a minimum!

The transformation has been happening the past few decades, perhaps why Singapore had developed and executed its plan of becoming an Intelligent Island by year 2000. It has followed it up with a blueprint for making Singapore the world’s first Smart Nation by 2025.

Singapore’s Critical Failure

Not many governments can come up with that level of forward planning. Where I think the government failed was in building a local talent pool that can meet the bulk of the human resource requirements in Singapore without having to import foreign mediocrity.

What is the use of being home to top-notch universities when locals find it hard to be absorbed by them, particularly in new-generation courses critical for industry? This is a critical failure the Government may have to own up.


PM Lee with students at the Singapore Institute of Technology – Picture Credit: PM Lee’s FB page

Keeping locals away from the institutions while exhorting them to upgrade their skills and be technically ready for the future is missing the crux of the issue, either deliberately or as a weak pretext. Degrees in the right discipline come first, and skills upgrading comes next!

In addition, let us not forget that jobs must be the right of every individual in the country, irrespective of what type of degrees or qualifications he or she holds. It is, nonetheless, the responsibility of everyone in the country to make the government’s task easier by pursuing education that provides them with an easy path to jobs on graduation. The government will have to facilitate that.

Locals Short-changed – From Education to Jobs

Campus diversity can come in when the interests of its citizens have been fulfilled. Next, all talk about technology redefining business can be dismissed as hollow if firms remain stuck in old-fashioned ways without the ability to come up with innovative ways to meet any perceived personnel crunch.

Most of the jobs that are being talked about do not involve rocket science. They involve skills that can be acquired provided businesses are willing to train the recruits. As a matter of fact, even most of the foreign resources they import acquire the skills needed only on the job. Clearly, therefore, locals are being short-changed across the board – from education to jobs.

There are still multinational companies in Singapore that put up Mandarin as a requirement for entry-level jobs. There are still many who nurture age prejudices. When retrenchments happen, it will be too naïve to believe it is a skills gap that is behind unemployment in the country.

The Jobs Bank Excuse

Interestingly, the ministers relied on the Jobs Bank database to highlight the availability of more than 70,000 jobs. It is not difficult to discover that the truth lies hidden behind that lofty figure.

Not all jobs advertised can be expected to be immediately available. Advertise, gather CVs and take no action – this is not an uncommon ploy.

Moreover, Jobs Bank is an excuse for them to bring in those they fancy from overseas. Is the government monitoring how they fill up the advertised positions? It is not practical for the Government to do this.

But it is easy for employers to claim they did not attract local applicants with the skill set they need. Precisely why the Government must apply greater rigour around issuing employment passes – even if they are for dependent spouses of those employed here!

Jobs creation will find resonance with the people if that is not seen as a way to import the so-called talent from across the shores.

The Emergence of Trump in the U.S.

It is cross-border lenience that has led to the emergence of Mr Donald Trump as a Presidential nominee in the U.S. causing divisions even in the country built by immigrants. Even there, foreigners do not account for 50% of the population as they do in Singapore.

All prejudices will disappear if more restrictions are put in place in terms of getting access to foreign personnel. I have been hearing from foreigners working in Singapore about how difficult it is to gain Permanent Residence in the country.

I don’t consider this as any tightening of immigration. Greater controls are needed in the dispensing of employment passes and student passes to foreigners.

Singapore must be ready to let go of companies that show a disinclination to hire and train locals. An overcrowded Singapore packed with foreigners to the brim and a deteriorating quality of life are hardly desirable!

PS: This is a topic I have been consistently writing about because of its import. It includes a post this May

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Filed under Singapore Education, Singapore job scene

Engineering Talent – Introspection Needed on how Singapore has Failed Locals


Today’s newspapers quoted Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as saying that while engineering was key to the country’s future “it has become harder to woo Singaporeans into the profession.”

He goes on to say that “Singapore is also not at the cutting edge” in most engineering fields.

Govt Must Take Blame: As he is a forward-looking, intelligent leader, I guess it has also occurred to him that the government must take the blame for its failure to build this critical talent pool within the country.

When most Singaporeans are kept out of the local universities, with a significant portion of engineering courses being taken up by foreigners, how can we expect the situation to be any better?

I may have my statistics wrong but I wish the local media take a crack on investigative reporting to get to the bottom of it.

Mr Lee has also talked about how Silicon Valley is scoring over Singapore. Of course, it does with all the foreign students Singapore accommodates, at the expense of locals, only eyeing Silicon Valley. Those staying back are not the type of talent Singapore needs – Silicon Valley discards!

China and India: Mr Lee also goes on to say: “Even in Asia, countries like China and India not only have larger pools of talent, but deeper capabilities and they have created IT firms that are world leaders.”

The reasons are simple: They are a thousand times bigger than Singapore and they don’t fill their universities with foreigners.

I have written several posts in the past, so I don’t wish to harp on how Singapore has failed locals in terms of education. Here are some of them that can be checked out:

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Filed under Education, Singapore Education, Singapore ICT Manpower, Singapore job scene