SINGAPORE: Singapore must “firmly reject all attempts to drive a wedge between different groups" within society, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat said on Wednesday (Jan 8).
“Let us not go down the path of other economies which are struggling with the politics of division and envy,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
He was echoing Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing’s position after Mr Chan answered Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh's questions in Parliament on Monday about the distribution of new jobs among Singaporeans and non-citizens.
On Wednesday, Mr Chee said: " In growing our economy, we constantly balance multiple trade-offs, including the extent to which we bring in foreigners to complement our local workforce."
What matters most are the outcomes for workers, he added.
“On this, the results are encouraging – Singapore remains globally competitive in attracting investments, unemployment has remained low, wages of Singaporean workers are going up and good jobs continue to be created now and, in the future,” the minister said.
Singapore has achieved these outcomes by staying united and working together, he added.
Permanent Residents (PRs) in the workforce have made contributions to Singapore, both economically and socially, even though they receive lower subsidies and fewer benefits than citizens, Mr Chee said.
“More importantly, many PRs are family members of our fellow Singapore citizens, as Mr Singh would be aware since the Workers’ Party has joined PAP MPs in advocating for foreign spouses and children of Singapore citizens to be given priority for Singapore citizenship,” he said.
NOT PITTING SINGAPOREANS AGAINST PERMANENT RESIDENTS
On Monday, Mr Chan had said the "ultimate competition" is not pitting Singaporeans against PRs.
"It is about the team Singapore comprising of Singaporeans, the PRs and even the foreign workforce competing to give the Singaporeans the best chance possible," Mr Chan had said.
Mr Singh had filed a parliamentary question asking for the number of new jobs filled by Singaporeans, PRs and foreigners for each industry covered by the 23 Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) rolled out progressively since late-2016, and repeatedly asked for a breakdown.
Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad provided the numbers to Parliament.
Mr Singh also asked if the Government would be revealing more concise manpower data based on citizenship status “either by way of parliamentary question or by the government on its own accord”.
“If the Government’s approach is no, we are not going to provide that data, can the minister please share that detail with us here because it is pointless for us to keep asking for the data if the Government is not going to provide it,” Mr Singh said.
"I don't think we have anything to hide,” Mr Chan replied. “We have just shared the data.”
Mr Singh then asked for a breakdown of Singaporeans and PRs in PMET jobs, leading to Mr Chan questioning the motives behind the questions.
“I am always very cautious about this constant divide: ‘Singaporean versus PR’. The insinuation seems to be that somehow the Singaporeans are not benefitting,” he said.
READ: Balanced approach to foreign workers needed to ensure continued creation of good jobs for Singaporeans: Chan Chun Sing
Mr Chee said on Wednesday that Mr Chan and Mr Zaqy had "explained clearly" to Mr Singh how Singaporeans have benefitted.
Mr Zaqy had told Parliament on Monday that between 2015 and 2018, total employment across the 23 ITM sectors grew by 19,500, excluding foreign domestic workers.
This comprised an increase in employment of Singapore Citizens by 39,300, an increase in employment of PRs by 8,600 and a decrease in employment of foreigners by 28,500.
Mr Zaqy added that it would be more meaningful to look at employment changes over a longer period, since the majority of the ITMs were launched in 2018.
In response to CNA queries, the Ministry of Manpower indicated that the figures provided by Mr Zaqy were rounded to the nearest hundred.
“I am puzzled why Mr Singh failed to acknowledge these statistics in his Facebook post,” Mr Chee, said, referring to Mr Singh’s post a day after the session.
In it, Mr Singh wrote that in most employment statistics, the Government does not classify Singaporeans as a standalone category. PRs are also included, collectively categorised with Singaporeans as “locals”.
“This classification makes it difficult to consider the problems and issues that afflict the Singaporean work force across industries and over time. It also makes it difficult to track and consider policy options or alternatives to boost the employment and career progression prospects of Singaporeans,” he wrote.