Tuesday, January 9

1/09/2007 11:28:00 PM

Youthful Perspectives on the Foreign Talent issue


During the National Day Rally Speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong talked about the need to augment the lack of manpower in the near and medium term due to the declining birth rate. There is now an urgent need to attract more Foreign Talent into Singapore.

In the aftermath of this speech, views on this issue were wide-ranging and varied. However, the consistent stand is this: Singaporeans must come first.
I decided to ask a 17-year-old polytechnic student from Temesek Polytechnic, Warren Elliot, and a 21-year-old Singapore Management University student, Tee Kian Hin, for their views on this raging issue.

Bernard: Firstly, what is your stand on the Foreign Talent issue?

Warren: My stand is a very neutral one. I think that foreign talent can help Singapore economically, socially and culturally. However, it should not be over-hyped. Over-stressing on the need for foreign talent can do damage to the social fabric in Singapore. For example, Singaporeans may feel like second class citizens instead of owners of the country.

Kian Hin: I believe they are essential for the continuation of Singapore's prosperity and progress. In the age of globalisation, and especially given Singapore’s relatively small domestic market which relies heavily on exports, jobs can be easily move to countries which are more cost-effective. So we can't be too protective about the jobs available in Singapore, or else companies may relocate elsewhere, and even more jobs will be lost. This means local companies will be less able to compete in the global market.

Bernard: Do you think it's necessary for the government to increase its emphasis on attracting Foreign Talent to Singapore?

Warren: I believe they should increase the emphasis on attracting Foreign Talent in the industries or fields of work in which foreign talent is required. However, the government should try to avoid attracting foreign talent for jobs that can very well be done by the locals. They should protect the rights of the locals first.

Kian Hin: Yes. There's nothing wrong with filling up these manpower 'gaps' with foreign talent. But the policy should not go overboard such that it ends
up marginalising and discriminating against Singaporeans – who may be equally competent – in terms of income and opportunities. Otherwise, Singaporeans will be fed up and eventually leave.

Bernard: What do you think is/are the reason/(s) behind this initiative of the government to attract more Foreign Talent to Singapore?

Warren: I guess the government has three reasons for doing so. Firstly, it is to make up for the lack of talent or skills of our locals, which will help in boosting our economy. Basically, it is to make up for what we do not have.

Secondly, it is to improve the workforce in Singapore as a whole. With the introduction of foreign talent, locals would feel insecure about their jobs and strive to improve themselves in order to keep up with the competition. As a result, many of them would strive to upgrade themselves, so as to be better equipped to take on the competition and fight for the jobs they want or already have.

Thirdly, the government wants Singapore to be a more cosmopolitan and vibrant city. With an influx of foreign talent, there would be added diversity and vibrancy to our already colourful country, thereby enhancing our social and cultural heritage.

Kian Hin: It was implemented in order to ensure the quality and quantity of our workforce, so that high-value industries could be set up in Singapore. This would, in turn, ensure that talented Singaporeans could continue to work here, rather than go overseas to achieve their goals.

Bernard: Personally, how do you think the 2-child policy has fared since its introduction?

Warren: Initially, the 2-child policy or “stop at 2” policy was a booming success and many households started practicing family planning and population growth stabilised. However, it was so successful that now, people are stopping at one or not even considering having children or getting married for that matter until a much later age.

No one policy can last for long periods of time. The current world we are living in is ever-changing and if you don't change along with it, you will lag behind. The government has introduced many bonuses and incentives to encourage more births in Singapore, but only time will tell whether it is a success.

Kian Hin: I simply think that people should have the right to have as many babies as they are able and willing to. I think the 2-child policy was more of a
deprivation of human rights rather than an issue of having any positive or negative economic benefits. By the same token, people should also have the right to decide if they want fewer babies, or not at all.

Bernard: Do you think that attracting more Foreign Talent into Singapore can solve Singapore's declining birth rate?

Warren: It will not solve the problem but it could alleviate the situation. A declining birth rate is Singapore's problem and outsiders should not be brought in for the sole purpose of solving it. We might as well go to the orphanages in third-world countries and conduct a pre-citizenship tests on the infants to see if they qualify for the competitive Singapore society; we would be doing charity at the same time, killing two birds with one stone! But seriously, if Singapore is attractive enough to make the expatriates stay and reproduce here, then it will help to arrest our declining birth rates. So let’s all smile and welcome them, and hopefully make them stay 

Kian Hin: No. A declining birth rate is an inevitable consequence of an increasingly affluent society. It is a common trend in many developed countries.

Bernard: Do you believe that Foreign Talent will deprive Singaporeans of jobs and what do you think the government should do to minimise the impact of Foreign Talent on Singaporeans and their livelihood?

Warren: I do not believe that foreign talent will actually deprive Singaporeans of jobs for the simple reason that there are so many jobs available and it is also partly because locals do not have the necessary skills to keep up with the industry’s needs. However, as mentioned before, the government should only attract foreign talent for areas in which they are needed, and not for every field of work.

If the situation gets too grave, which I seriously doubt it will, the government could either have compulsory upgrading courses so that locals can keep up with the expatriates, or impose a cap on the number foreigners who can work in certain industries.

Kian Hin: No. As I said, industries these days are very mobile and hence the best talents (local or otherwise) should be welcome to take on jobs that need their expertise, so that such industries can come to, or remain in Singapore. Otherwise, companies may relocate to places which can provide them the skilled manpower they need. I believe the greater problem in Singapore is the welfare of the lower-income group. Competing with foreign talent is generally more of a concern for those with higher education and earning power.

Bernard: What do you suggest a multi-cultural, multi racial society like Singapore should do to integrate Foreign Talent into the body politic of Singapore?

Warren: Well, we should do what we have been doing since our independence. Since we are a multi-cultural and multi racial society, why should we treat foreign talents from a different cultural or racial background differently? We should just continue what we have been doing and treat them with respect and tolerate them for who they are. World Peace!

Kian Hin: Be open-minded and open-hearted. Be fair and respectful to each individual. Basically, we have to continue what we have achieved in the past in
preserving racial harmony. However, we must guard against succumbing to the fallacy that foreigners MUST be more talented than Singaporeans - because it's definitely not true.

Bernard: With the influx of Foreign Talent into Singapore, what type of a society do you envision Singapore to be in 20 years time?

Warren: I would envision Singapore to be a vibrant, diverse, and global city. Ok, that's too clichéd. Well, I hope it would be much more “user-friendly”. I picture the streets filled with busy people (both locals and foreigners) rushing to get from one place to another, with sky-scrapers surrounding the CBD and cars jamming up the roads. (Well, I hope we have ariel modes of transport by then.) Singapore would be a very successful city economically and socially, and we will be known in every single part of the world.

Kian Hin: A cosmopolitan city, full of vibrancy. But this largely depends on whether the government is willing to open up and tolerate new – albeit more controversial and 'less politically-correct' – ideas and opinions, and not continue behaving like a nanny.

Brief Introduction of our youths:

Warren Elliot (left pic) is turning 17 this year and is currently pursing the Diploma in Leisure and Resort Management at Temasek Polytechnic. He says: “I am not a very political person, more of a “kaypo” gossiper; so I really hope my answers are relevant to the questions!”

Kian Hin (in red) is 21 years old this year and is currently studying at the Singapore Management University. In his free time, he likes to play the piano, take some photographs and is an ardent football fan.

The above article can be found in the current issue (07/01) of the Hammer


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It came about in the wee hours of the early morning while being whisked away into memories of the past etched deep within the mind. Bittersweetness that tingled the tastebuds of his emotions and feelings, the only way out for true LIBERATION from this reality is what is behind the shadow of transcendence. Revolution, the taste of iron-rust blood coiled with the lingering bittersweetness is the only contemplation of which the simplicity of life has to offer in exchange for the shadow of transcendence.

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