Skip to main content

Speech by Minister for Manpower, Dr Tan See Leng, on motion to secure Singaporeans' jobs and livelihood

Mr Speaker Sir,


  1. A debate on jobs should be taken seriously.

    1. It is more than a hashtag. The success, livelihoods and well-being of millions of our fellow Singaporeans are at stake.


  2. I had hoped that the PSP would share this understanding.


  3. Instead, the PSP’s approach has disappointed me.


  4. First, the PSP continues to equivocate about FTAs, claiming it does not have enough information. What further information does the PSP need?
    1. We have explained that all foreigners have to meet the same work pass criteria.

    2. The PSP has asked for data on ICTs over the years – because the data cited was for 2020, a crisis year.

    3. We didn’t go into these details further because the trends were similar.

    4. But since the PSP persists in this line of inquiry, here are the numbers over the last five years.

    5. The total number of ICTs in 2020 was 4,200. In 2019, 4,400. In 2018, 3,200. In 2017, 2,600. In 2016, 2,100.

    6. The total number of Indian ICTs in 2020 was 500. In 2019, 600. In 2018, 400. In 2017, 400. In 2016, 300.

    7. These numbers have been consistently low.

    8. So, I would like to ask the PSP again – what further information does it need?

    9. Given the racial undertones on this issue, acknowledged by all Members of the House, the PSP’s equivocation is not only misleading, but also dangerous.


  5. Second, the PSP has fielded a slew of data requests via Parliamentary Questions, and it has made a sweeping statement that there is no credibility in any of our statements, because we have not released all the data that it has asked for. It has equivocated that it cannot provide answers, because it has no information.


  6. Let me be very clear, when it comes to data on our local workforce, we do publish it regularly, at a high level of granularity, in line with international standards.
    1. But it seems the PSP is not aware of this.

    2. In the 26 July Parliamentary Sitting, the PSP filed a PQ asking for the “annual breakdown numbers of local PMEs from 2005 to 2020”.

    3. Parliamentary rules make it clear that a PQ should not ask for information that is already publicly available.

    4. Nevertheless, in my reply to Ms Poa, I told her where to look for such data. I also told her that the data stretches back to 1991 on MOM’s website, if she was interested.

    5. Notably, I have not heard the PSP use any of the data we have provided in its arguments.


  7. We have responded, and instead of being bogged down by these unhelpful distractions, I want to speak about the anxieties of Singaporeans, workers and business owners alike. I acknowledge these anxieties – they are present, not just in Singapore, but all around the world.


  8. I oppose the PSP’s motion, because it does not provide the solutions that Singaporeans anxious about jobs and competition seek.


  9. The way to address Singaporeans’ anxieties about jobs and competition in a fast-changing economy, is to: 
    1. Continue to invest heavily in developing our local workforce, and


    2. Ensure that foreigners complement, rather than displace, our locals.


  10. Minister Wong has already shared some important perspectives on our strategy. I will share some of the facts and data that are relevant.

    The Jobs Landscape


  11. Turning first to the jobs landscape.


  12. The PSP fixates on the increase in the number of foreign PMETs to argue that locals have been displaced and have lost out. It has painted a picture of widespread displacement – based on the anecdotes it has heard.


  13. But how have local PMETs have actually fared? MOM publishes this data regularly, at fine granularity – but the PSP has not made any mention of this.


  14. So, let me walk you through the numbers.


  15. With your permission, Mr Speaker, may I display some slides on the LED screens.


  16. First, local PMET employment.

    1. The PSP harps on the number of foreign PMETs, depicted by the orange bars. But the number of local PMET jobs, depicted by the blue bars, is significantly larger.


    2. Over the past decade, there was an increase of 110k EP and S Pass holders.


    3. But local PMETs increased by 300k.


    4. This is the case even if we look at some of the sub-sectors that hire more EPs – Finance, Infocomm and Professional Services. Over the past decade, EP and S Pass holders in these sub-sectors increased by 40k, but local PMETs increased by almost 155k – four times.


    5. This goes to show competition between locals and foreigners is not a zero-sum game.

    6. The PSP has asked whether most of the local job creation went to PRs, rather than Singaporeans.

    7. During the 6 July Ministerial Statement, I had already shared that the majority of local PME growth over the last decade went to Singaporeans born in Singapore. This is the same for PMETs.

    8. Some other data points we publish should make it clear that Singaporeans have benefitted. First, MOM regularly publishes unemployment rates for PRs and citizens – the unemployment rate of citizens has remained stable and low. Second, the PR population has remained stable over the past decade at around half a million. So, it cannot be the case that most of the employment growth went to PRs.

    9. But more fundamentally, as a society we should not be constantly drawing lines between Singapore citizens and PRs.

    10. Many of our PRs either share family ties with Singaporeans, or have studied, worked or lived here for some time. They contribute to our strengths as a society and economy.

    11. Singapore is an immigrant nation and openness is one of our society’s core strengths that has defined who we are.


  17. Second, local PMET unemployment.


    1. Outside of crises, it has generally remained at 3% or lower. Few countries have achieved unemployment rates as low as this.


    2. Long-term unemployment rate, referring to those who were looking for a job for at least twenty five weeks, is even lower – at below 1%.


    3. The increase in foreign PMETs has not caused the unemployment rate to rise.


    Third, number of PMET job vacancies.

    1. It has been on an upward trend since 2010 and has been hovering around 30,000 over the past five years.

    2. These vacancies are spread across various sectors: There are 4,300 unfilled PMET jobs in Infocomm, 4,100 in Finance, 2,700 in Professional Services, just to name a few.

    3. If every additional foreigner results in one less opportunity for a local, why are there so many unfilled vacancies? Surely these vacancies should have been long filled?


  18. Finally, median local PMET wages.

    1. It has risen from $4,600 in 2010 to $6,300 in 2020, a total increase of 38%. In real terms, this translates to a 21% increase.


  19. To sum up, the data shows us that while the number of foreign PMETs has increased, we saw:

    1. Even larger increase in local PMET employment;


    2. Low local PMET unemployment;


    3. Growing number of PMET job vacancies, and


    4. Growing local PMET wages.


  20. In fact, the proportion of our workforce in PMET jobs is among the highest in the world at almost 60%, up from 30% in the early 1990s.


  21. A very different picture from the dire situation that the PSP has portrayed. To hear Mr Leong, you’d think it has been midnight in Singapore for 30 years.


  22. Nevertheless, while the vast majority of local PMETs have experienced positive outcomes, we must not neglect the lived experiences of the minority who have not.

    1. Their experiences are equally valid too.

    2. It is not just the PSP who talks to Singaporeans. I meet them too, and hear their concerns.


  23. One group in particular concerns me – our older local PMETs.

    1. They have contributed to society and are still able and willing to work.


  24. Yet some among them have lost their jobs.

    1. When this happens, it can be devastating.


    2. It feels like a part of their identity is gone.


    3. Even for those who are still employed, seeing others around their age lose their jobs causes them to be demoralised, and causes them to feel anxious.


  25. I understand the pain. But I must point out this is happening not because of increased competition from foreigners, but from deeper, structural trends.

    1. If you look at this chart, the unemployment rate among older local PMETs started diverging from the overall rate from 2015 onwards.


    2. I remember this year distinctly, because it was the year I attended the World Economic Forum in Davos. Big data was top of the agenda.


    3. This was the year big data and machine learning hit the mass market.


    4. Companies were racing to build up digital teams. This created new roles which required new skills, while disrupting some existing roles and skills.


    5. Against this backdrop, older PMETs faced competition – not so much from foreigners, but from technology, and possibly also from younger Singaporeans who had the necessary skills.


  26. We saw these trends happening – and rolled out SkillsFuture in January 2016.

    1. We knew that lifelong learning had to become the norm, so that Singaporeans could pivot to new opportunities.


    2. And we built on this foundation year after year.


  27. But the Government’s efforts is only half the story. What really makes the difference is the spirit of older Singaporeans, their willingness to remain open to new possibilities.


  28. Take Mr Arnold Lim, who spent 25 years in the banking industry and was retrenched at the age of 50.


    1. After a year of efforts to return to the banking industry, he decided to join PulseSecure, an IT firm.


    2. The learning curve was steep for him given his lack of IT experience.


    3. PulseSecure hired him through the Web Developer Career Conversion Programme (CCP), which allowed him to pick up new technical skills and gain relevant on-the-job experience.


    4. Mr Lim subsequently took on additional IT certifications on his own accord


    5. In his own words, “After 50 is a new start for me”.


  29. I have spoken at length about unemployment. But various Members of the House, have pointed out that this may not reveal the full picture of “under-employment”, and asked if the government is monitoring this.


  30. There are two different concepts of under-employment.
    1. One is time-related – when a worker would like work for longer hours, but is unable to find a job that allows him to do so. This is well-defined, and internationally, there are ways to measure this.

    2. MOM regularly tracks and publishes resident time-related underemployment, which can be found in MOM’s Labour Force Survey. The time-related underemployment rate has averaged 3.6% over in the past decade. Although the resident time-related underemployment rate rose to 4.1% in 2020, due to COVID-19, it still remains relatively low.

    3. The other type of under-employment is skills-related – when a worker believes that his current job does not fully utilise his skills. This is more subjective, and this is what I think a few members have alluded to earlier on. There is as yet no internationally-accepted standard for measuring this.

    4. MOM is part of a working group led by the International Labour Organisation, or ILO, to develop suitable methodologies to relate an individual’s occupation to their skill and education level. These are discussions involving professional labour market statisticians. So while I appreciate the interest of Members for MOM to magically provide a “KPI” for skills under-employment, the fact that there is at the ILO a working group of statisticians studying how this should be measured, should highlight that this is no simple matter.


  31. In the meantime, we regularly track and publish the number of self-employed persons (SEPs).


  32. This graph shows the share of our local workforce who are self-employed persons since 2010. They include private hire car and taxi drivers, real estate agents, hawkers. They are not employed by a company.


  33. The proportion of SEPs has remained stable between 8-10% over the past two decades, although we did see an uptick during COVID.


  34. Gig workers are defined as self-employed persons who use online matching platforms. The top occupation of gig workers is private-hire car drivers on online matching platforms, like “Grab” or “Gojek”. Around 1.5% of our local workforce are in this occupation.

    1. However, in response to a survey by MOM, 70% of them said they do this on a “preferred basis”, because they enjoy the flexibility and freedom.

    2. Grab’s own survey echoed this – more than 70% of their private-hire car drivers have chosen to take up work via Grab because of “flexibility of time”


  35. For the 30% who wish to transit to regular employment,

    1. They can tap on skills training and employment facilitation services offered by WSG and e2i.


    2. As mentioned by PM Lee during the 2021 NDR, MOM will form an Advisory Committee to propose recommendations to improve protections for this group.

    The Job to Be Done

  36. Ultimately, the best thing we can do for our locals is to continually invest in them to help them adapt and compete.


  37. But it seems the PSP would want us to take a more effortless route – and simply target the “400,000 foreign PMETs” they say are here.
    1. In fact, as Mr Leong noted, the number of EP and S Pass holders has fallen to 350,000.
    2. How much lower does he want it to go? 300,000? 200,000? Or maybe 0?


  38. Ms Hazel Poa has painted a simple narrative that if we keep labour supply tight, it will contribute to productivity improvements and higher wage growth for Singaporeans.

    1. But at a certain point, a tight labour market can also lose us opportunities and the ability to internationalise. Which can cost us jobs and wage growth.

    2. It is not such a simple linear relationship.


  39. Let us not talk about “rebalancing” abstractly, and focus instead on the PSP’s policy suggestions.


  40. Can the PSP explain how all of its suggestions will not dampen Singapore’s attractiveness to foreign investors and cause poorer outcomes for the majority?


  41. As a small country devoid of any natural resources, there are severe consequences if we turn inwards, lose our lustre as a regional hub, and cause companies leave our shores and take the jobs with them.


    1. I speak to many businesses, trade associations and chambers. A common thread in their feedback is the difficulty of finding enough locals with the right skills, which has hampered their expansion plans.


    2. Some of them are giving up, and turning to hiring foreigners based in their home country – after all, people can now work from anywhere.

    3. The ten biggest MNCs in Singapore alone create around 30,000 local PMET jobs. If they decide to leave, we would not be talking about recouping “tens of thousands” of jobs, but about losing more of them instead.


  42. Members might also know that Singapore has already fallen from first to fifth in the Institute for Management Development’s, or IMD’s, 2021 World Competitiveness Ranking.


    1. This was partly due to Covid-19, as our small economy was more affected by the global slowdown than larger ones. In particular, we have slid in our openness towards global trade and talent, in rankings regarding “attitudes towards globalisation”, “availability of skilled labour” and “immigration laws preventing companies from hiring foreign labour”.


    2. I will say this plainly to Mr Leong: What he and his party spew, attacking CECA and FTAs and foreigners in general, has an effect on IMD’s assessment, and on business sentiments, here and overseas. Investors watch and wonder how many other Singaporeans feel this way? Has Singapore become less welcoming of foreign investments, global talent?


    3. Why do you think we are taking this issue so seriously? In July, Ministers Ong and I made ministerial statements – we decided to confront Mr Leong openly. In August, the Prime Minister addressed the issue again in his National Day Rally speech. And now, in this debate, three ministers have spoken thus far, me for the second time.


    4. Do Mr Leong and his party think Singapore will forever be attractive to investors? There is some magic in our water that draws global multinationals here? All this happens spontaneously?


    5. Mr Speaker, Sir: We made this happen. And we continue making it happen. You heard Minister Lawrence Wong recall how Mr Lee Kuan Yew went so far as to pay special attention to how the road leading from Changi Airport to the city looked. Day in, day out, many government agencies continue to work hard to make sure we remain attractive to investors. So they come here; sink billions here; erect plants, labs, studios, facilities here; create jobs and livelihoods for Singaporeans, including our children, so they can do jobs of the future, not of the past.

    6. As a result of this unremitting work over 60 years, Singapore remains a competitive economy, as proven by our pipeline of investments even during the pandemic. However, other economies are also raising their game.

    7. We cannot afford to take our economic competitiveness for granted. The attitudes that PSP is promoting are detrimental to how others perceive our openness. Mr Leong, please, have a care.


  43. I know that by and large, Singaporeans are pragmatic and understand that we need to remain open to global talents and stay connected.


  44. But some of them feel frustrated, when they see a foreigner hired


    1. Though he is unable to do the job as well as a Singaporean


    2. Or simply because he has links with the hiring manager


  45. We know these sorts of things happen. That is why when it comes to our foreign workforce policies, we constantly


    1. Adjust them to ensure that foreigners complement, not displace, our locals.


    2. And strengthen our levers against discriminatory practices.


  46. Yet, in spite of our work, the PSP continues to criticise our foreign workforce policies as being too lax. And today we hear some ideas from them.


    1. They characterised our “foreign talent policy” as a “conduit for quick immigration and a source of cheap labour” and claimed that the qualifying salary of S Passes and EPs are too low. They said there is “unfair wage competition” because employers do not have to pay the 17% CPF contribution for foreigners.


    2. They asked us to raise the EP qualifying salary to $10,000. And the S Pass to $4,500.


    3. They asked us to impose a $1,200 levy.


    4. To impose a 25%-30% cap on work pass holders and PRs


    5. To impose a hard nationality cap of 10% in each firm


    6. Mr Leong also laments that we do not have enough Singaporeans in leadership positions. And elsewhere, he had suggested greater protection for top leadership roles.


  47. Let me take each point in turn.


  48. First, on Mr Leong’s claim that our qualifying salaries are too low, and that there is “unfair wage competition”


  49. I wonder whether Mr Leong is aware that the numbers he cited are the minimum qualifying salaries for EP and S Pass holders at the youngest ages?


    1. Does he know that our qualifying salaries rise with age, to maintain a level playing field for our mature PMETs? For example, the EP qualifying salary for those in their 40s is around double of the minimum qualifying salary.

    2. I would like to ask, has the PSP actually consulted businesses on what they think of our current policy?

    3. Many businesses, including the SMEs, are already crying out that they are not able to access the foreign PMETs they need.

    4. We listen to them, and help them transform and find suitable Singaporeans. But ultimately, we explain to them why we have to hold the line.


  50. Mr Leong has also repeated the point that foreign EPs are cheaper to hire than locals, because their employers do not make CPF contributions. I had already clarified this point on 6 July, but let me do so again.

    1. The CPF is set aside for our retirement needs, and can also be used for housing.

    2. Foreign PMETs are not working in Singapore on a permanent basis, and we are not responsible for their retirement adequacy or home ownership needs, it does not make sense for us to extend CPF coverage and benefits to them.

    3. I think everyone in this House knows the interest rate that we pay on our CPF contributions; I will not elaborate on this further.

    4. Fundamentally, our CPF system is designed to benefit our resident workers, not to help attract or deter foreigners.

    5. So how do we maintain a level playing field? When reviewing the qualifying salary to maintain a level playing field, we take into account CPF contributions as part of the cost to employers.


  51. Ms Hazel Poa also highlighted the issue of false salary declarations and kickbacks, as ways for employers to get around our work pass framework.

    1. MOM takes firm measures to safeguard the integrity of the work pass framework. False declarations of any sort are an offence – under the EFMA, it carries a fine of up to $20,000, up to two years imprisonment, or both.

    2. The fact that Ms Hazel Poa is aware of this means she is also aware that MOM has been enforcing this and publicising our efforts to stamp out these illegal practices.

    3. At the same time, PSP’s solution is to raise the salary criteria for EP and S Pass holders significantly – does the PSP think that this underlying problem will get better with their suggestion?


  52. Second, imposing a levy of $1,200 on all EP holders.

    1. This is easy enough for the government to do. It also generates revenue.

    2. So why do we not go down this route?

    3. Because at the EP-level, our primary focus is on regulating quality.

    4. A levy would have the opposite effect.

      • Employers have finite budgets for manpower. Suppose an employer has set aside $10,000 a month for a new PME hire


      • A levy of $1,200 effectively reduces his budget to $8,800. This immediately narrows the pool of EP candidates, from those willing to consider a salary of $10,000 and below, to those willing to consider a salary of $8,800 and below.


      • How would this benefit the employer or his Singaporean employees, if the intention is to seek the best talents available?


    1. We would also be sending contradictory signals if we say that we welcome high calibre global professionals to Singapore on one hand and impose a levy on them on the other.


    1. So, instead of a levy, we focus on regulating quality through the EP salary criteria. This sets a high bar that EP holders must reach to work in Singapore and raises their quality over time.


  53. Third, imposing a 25-30% cap on work pass holders and PRs in the long-run.
    1. First, PSP should know that we have quotas at the S Pass level.

    2. We have already been reducing the S Pass sub-DRC over the past decade – for the Services sector. It is currently at 10%, down from 25%. And there are ongoing cuts still taking place in all other sectors.

    3. I have also explained why we do not set quotas at the EP level - because there is fierce competition for global talent and worldwide shortages in areas such as technology and digital skills. And doing so would send the wrong signal that we are not welcome to such talent.

    4. Let me give a concrete example.

    5. Take for example, infrastructure financing. Since the 2000s, MAS has been promoting this, because there is a huge infrastructure opportunity in Asia and a yawning financing gap.

    6. However, working in this area requires significant expertise, given the complex risk profile of infrastructure projects.

    7. In the early days, we did not have local talent to work in this area.

    8. Global banks, especially Japanese and European banks were the most active players in the initial phase, and had the talent and expertise.

    9. Mizuho Bank was one such bank that chose to set up a project financing team in Singapore.

    10. In 2003, Singaporeans accounted for 40% of its project finance team. Now, the proportion of Singaporeans is 70% of a much larger office. If we had imposed quotas upfront, would this have happened?

    11. If PSP insists on a 30% quota, I would like to ask: Would you turn away a company that creates 69 high-end jobs for locals, because it needs 31 foreigners from abroad?

    12. If PSP’s prevailing assumption is that less foreigners means more jobs for locals – what would stop it from lowering this quota further to 20% or 10% or 0%? He had previously suggested that it is not good enough that Singaporeans make up 70% of the workforce in the financial sector, but that it should be even higher at 80% or 90%.In which case, how do we remain and maintain our status an international financial centre?


  54. Fourth, imposing a hard nationality cap of 10% within each firm.


  55. Once you stack up a 30% cap on top of another 10% cap, it becomes clear that Mr Leong’s policy can only make the environment so hostile, that no foreign investor will consider Singapore to build any new business. To use the example of Mizuho Bank, the effect of Mr Leong’s proposal is to tell a Japanese Bank that only 10% of their workers can be Japanese nationals.


  56. Nevertheless, as I shared in my 6 July Ministerial Statement, we understand the tensions that can arise when a foreign nationality dominates, and we have levers today to address this.


    1. The FCF, or the Fair Consideration Framework Watchlist identifies firms with a high concentration of a single nationality – their work pass applications are scrutinised for potential discriminatory hiring, and TAFEP engages them.

    2. And as I had also shared, we are exploring refinements to our EP framework to help us achieve our objectives of a strong Singaporean core, complemented by a diverse foreign workforce.


  57. Finally, on Mr Leong’s calls to ring-fence positions in top management for Singaporeans.

    1. Let me state simply that we help Singaporeans rise to the top, not by protecting them, but by enabling them.
      1. Many companies have programmes in place to groom talent for leadership positions. Take Asia Pacific Breweries for example. Their staff can participate in their Management Team and Beyond Fast Track programme, be rotated into positions globally and expand their skillsets.


    2. When companies first set up here, it is understandable that they will need to bring in many of their senior management to oversee the business here. If we protect the top management jobs for Singaporeans alone, and companies decide not to invest here because of that, we would lose good jobs for our locals, and the opportunity for them to take on the higher level positions in future.


    3. I worry that the PSP is calling for policies that are not only short-sighted, but protectionist, and will do grave harm to Singaporeans.


  58. I would also like to address Mr Pritam Singh’s idea of a time-limited EP, to facilitate skills transfer.
    1. I should point out to Mr Singh that no work pass is issued indefinitely.
    2. At the point of renewal, employers must meet our prevailing criteria.



  59. The idea of a skills transfer requirement sounds good in theory, but in practice, it is not as straightforward to implement.
    1. The process of skills transfer is rarely linear or one to one.
    2. I do not think it makes sense for MOM to be the judge, to set a fixed duration, and force employers to let go of experienced work pass holders once their fixed term is up.


  60. So, finally, I want to address our efforts to stamp out discrimination. Minister Wong touched on the anti-discrimination legislation earlier, but I would like to address the PSP’s claim that because the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) was introduced in 2014, fair consideration for our locals was not a priority before that.


  61. In fact, the tripartite partners have been issuing guidelines on fair employment practices over the past two decades, having introduced the “Tripartite Guidelines on Non-Discriminatory Job Advertisements” as early as 1999.


    1. In 2002, we added the “Code of Responsible Employment Practices”


    2. In 2006, we set up the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP).


    3. In 2007, we issued the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (TGFEP).


    4. In 2011, we enhanced the TGFEP to include guidelines on hiring and developing a Singaporean core.


  62. And in 2014, the introduction of the FCF took these efforts one step further by introducing the job advertising requirement.


    1. And we have been progressively strengthening the FCF ever since.


    2. We introduced the FCF Watchlist in 2016 as a systematic framework for engaging firms with outlier workforce profiles and scrutinising them for potential discrimination.


    3. In 2020, we strengthened the penalties against firms found to have discriminatory hiring practices.


    4. In the same year, we extended the coverage of the FCF job advertising requirement to S Passes and doubled the minimum advertising period from 14 to 28 days.


  63. Ensuring responsible and fair employment practices has always been our priority.


  64. At the National Day Rally recently, PM Lee announced we are taking the next step of strengthening our enforcement against workplace discrimination through legislation.


    1. Members of the house, this is a major step, philosophically and legally


    2. This will cover discrimination on the grounds of nationality, in addition to other kinds of discrimination covered by the TGFEP.


    3. And it sends a clear signal that discrimination of any kind is not tolerated.


  65. When you consider all the policies we have put in place, it is quite clear that we are providing strong support for the employment of local PMETs. Even Miss He Ting Ru has noticed and acknowledged our plans to legislate the TAFEP guidelines.


  66. Indeed many companies tell us that they prefer to hire locals over foreigners, so long as they can find the skills here.
    1. Even if there is initially a shortage of skills, many are willing to develop local talent to fill these roles


    2. Take for example PayPal.


    1. When it first started, it had to rely more heavily on global talent for specialised technical skills and more senior roles that required managing regional teams.


    2. However, PayPal committed to hire and train 150 Singaporeans across tech and business roles over 3 years.


  67. I acknowledge there is always more work to be done. And I have before in my past statements that we are always work-in-progress. We must continuously refine our policies, to secure the well-being and livelihoods of Singaporeans in a post-pandemic world, but, Members of the House, we must not discard the principles that have worked well for us.

  68. Mr Speaker Sir, let me now say a few words in Mandarin.

  69. 最近,新加坡中华总商会会长黄山忠先生在《联合早报》专栏中提到:“虽然商界认同政府必须优先保留就业机会给本地人,但我们也意识到,引进优质外来劳动力是推动本地经济发展不能缺乏的一股巨大动力,这起着与本地劳动力相辅相成的共赢关系。”

  70. 我非常同意黄先生的看法。新加坡经济政策的重心是为国人创造良好的就业机会,从而改善并提升大家的生活。政府的目标从未改变:帮助国人发挥潜能, 把握新机遇,提高竞争力。

  71. 随着经济的重塑和发展,许多企业引进了外籍专才来补充本地劳动队伍,但这为本地员工带来了更激烈的竞争。有些员工难免倍感压力,尤其是年长专业人士(PMET)。

  72. 设身处地,我能理解他们的担忧。年长专业人士所面对的挑战来自多方面,比如:

    o            数码科技的发展,促使全球经济结构性的转变。

    o            企业需要员工具备相关技能,但这与年长专业人士之前所接受过的培训截然不同。

  73. 此外,他们所面对的竞争对手不仅限于与在新加坡的外籍员工,还包括受过高等教育的年轻员工。

  74. 在这个不断变迁和竞争激烈的世界里,我们应当如何面对?孔子曾说过“五十知天命”。这让我有所领悟。人到中年,经历了人生的起起落落,具备了宝贵的经验,就更应该有能屈能伸的精神,不是墨守成规,故步自封,而是坦然地面对一切挑战。所以我要呼吁大家不断地自我提升,接受培训,掌握新技能,适应新的工作环境,共同为自己和家人打造一个更美好的未来。

  75. 除了年长专业人士,自雇人士也面临了严峻的挑战。

    o            政府正关注为线上平台服务的自雇人士。因为他们与中介平台之间有着类似雇佣的关系,却不受雇佣法令的保护。我们已成立了咨询委员会, 探讨如何改善这群自雇人士的工作保障。

    o            至于其他想找到受薪工作的自雇人士,我们仍会继续提供培训与职业配对服务。

  76. 香港乐坛知名歌手许冠杰有一首金曲叫《世事如棋》,有一段歌词我一直难以忘怀:“张眼远望,世事如棋,每局应观察入微,但求共你棋艺相比较,了解做人道理。”

  77. 的确,人生如棋,面对多变的棋局,一旦举棋不定,就会错失良机。针对经济与就业,政府也正积极推动企业创新转型,打造更多吸引国人的工作,确保国人能在“与病毒共存”的阶段里越战越勇。要成为赢家, 关键在于大家齐心协力、奠定基础、把握时机,方能旗开得胜!


  78. Let me conclude.

  79. The PSP has filed a slew of data requests.

  80. We have responded to all of this.
    1. We have given you the number of foreign PMETs.
    2. We have given you the number of ICTs over the past few years.
    3. We have given you the number of local PMETs.
    4. Data is regularly published on unemployment,
    5. And time-related underemployment.

  81. So, the debate today is on whether CECA and other FTAs allow complete free flow.The answer is clear. It does not. And second, how do these impact on local employment? In July and now, we have shown you that local employment has increased as a result of FTAs. There is enough data for that. This suggestion that you are not given data is a red herring. 

  82. Based on what I have shared today, I think reasonable members would agree that our strategies have worked for the vast majority of Singaporeans. I have not based this argument on anecdotes or perceptions alone, but on hard data and facts.

  83. Nevertheless, the concerns of the minority are just as important to all of us. We cannot assure every Singaporean that their jobs will always be protected.

  84. But make no mistake. We will work very, very, very hard to protect every Singaporean and ensure your employability.

  85. Mr Leong has presented us with one bleak and biased view – that of an anxious and fearful Singapore, whose instinctive reaction to challenges is to withdraw from the world. I reject this view of Singapore and Singaporeans. It doesn’t define us and it isn’t us.

  86. The Motion put forward by Minister Wong acknowledges our anxieties, while affirming our achievements; preserves what has worked well, while pointing out the work to be done. And I repeat what Minister Ong and Minister Wong have said: We are prepared to fight the next General Election on these principles, for we are determined to fight any party wedded to racism and xenophobia, and a small-minded vision of Singapore.

  87. With that, I support Minister Wong’s Motion.  

  88. Thank you.