SINGAPORE: Of the nearly 60,000 new jobs created for the local workforce between 2015 and 2018, about 50,000 went to Singaporeans and more than 9,000 went to permanent residents (PRs), Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing revealed on Thursday (Jan 16).
Giving a breakdown for the first time during an interview ahead of the Economic Development Board’s year-in-review, Mr Chan said that the figures work out to about five Singaporeans to one PR, which is close to the local workforce ratio of six Singaporeans to one PR.
The topic of the breakdown of jobs among Singaporeans, PRs and foreigners has been in the spotlight since Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh raised a question on it in Parliament about two weeks ago.
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Mr Chan, who took the question in Parliament, asked for Mr Singh’s intention behind the question, and did not give a breakdown at the time, although he said that the Government can get the numbers.
DIFFERENCE IN RATIO
On Thursday, Mr Chan said it is only expected that PRs' performance in the jobs market would be “slightly stronger” than Singapore citizens’, all else being equal.
"I know it’s easy to politicise this and say, oh why is the PR performance slightly stronger than the Singapore citizen performance," he said during a question and answer session, but added that there are "very simple" reasons for this.
The Singaporean workforce is made up of a wider group, from 20 years old to more than 60 years old, whereas PRs are made up of people who come because of “strong job opportunities”.
"Because we pre-select the PRs, it would not be surprising that in some sectors, the PR performance is just slightly better than Singaporeans," he said.
"In fact, I think Singaporeans should be quite worried if it is the other way round."
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FOREIGNERS IN FASTEST-GROWING SECTORS
Mr Chan also went on to give the proportion of Singaporeans and PRs to foreigners in the workforce, which is three residents to one foreigner.
The ratio does not include jobs that Singaporeans are not in, such as construction worker and domestic worker, he said.
Foreigners are in the fastest-growing sectors such as Infocommunications Technology (ICT), he said. Worldwide, these fastest-growing sectors are the ones which face a shortage of skills, added the minister.
"There is a global shortage of such people. That’s why we can expect some sectors to have a higher foreign complement than others,” he said.
However, he reiterated what he said in Parliament: That in the sectors where the proportion of foreigners is higher, local employees are taking over these jobs over time.
He cited an employment survey released by the Ministry of Education recently in saying that many graduates are taking over higher-paying, better jobs progressively - including in the ICT industry - even though the local ratio today may be lower than three to one.
"This is nothing to be surprised at. But of course, if there are opportunists who want to stir this, then I will refer them back to what I said in Parliament," he said, referring to accepting investments in order to create higher-paying jobs for locals.
He also explained why the unemployment rate among foreigners may be lower than among Singaporeans and PRs.
According to the latest labour statistics released in December last year, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 2.3 per cent, while the jobless rate for residents was 3.2 per cent.
"The truth of the matter is if a foreigner is unemployed, why would we allow the foreigner in Singapore? So the unemployment rate for foreigners in Singapore must be zero," he said.