Monday, September 23, 2013

Singapore's new law to "hire locals first" will only help foreigners, not locals !

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Singaporean state controlled newspaper Straits Times of Sept 23, 2013 has the story "Firms must show they tried to hire Singaporeans first" Please see

Believe it or not, Singapore till now does not have any laws to treat locals better than foreigners. Unbelievably, up till now, it is the only country in the world, where a foreigner can simply fly into the island, look up the papers for a job vacancy and get the job the very day, without any concern that there may be a hundred unemployed Singaporeans, with families to feed, equally qualified waiting for that very job!

And unbelievably, it is the only country among the so-called developed world, not being sure if the island qualifies as a developed country, where there is no minimum wage laws of any kind and anyone can be paid any amount by any employer, take or leave it.

And now this. The government claims, according to this report that "from August next year firms that want to hire foreign professionals must prove that they have tried to hire Singaporeans"

And that they have to advertise in "a national job bank" and that "firm with fewer than 25 or less"  or those whose salaries are more than "$12,000.00 per month" are exempt.

All very nice but have they ever considered whether it will ever work?

I am principally a US Immigration lawyer with more than 17 years of experience and I should know a thing or two about hiring foreigners. And I will tell you that this rule or policy is simply hogwash, another of Lee Kuan Yew's red herrings that he occasionally throws when convenient. It will not help any Singaporean. If it does, foreigners will be the only beneficiaries of this harebrained policy. This is why:

1. In order for this rule to have any meaning, the country should first have minimum wage laws. Without this, in Singapore any employer can advertise a job at any salary they want. Therefore if any employer wanted to circumvent this law, the easiest thing to do would be to advertise the job at a very low wage rate. In this way they can easily eliminate any Singaporeans, who has to live in Lee Kuan Yew's HDB flat and send his children to school and pay the high cost of living. After that all  they have to do is to claim no Singaporean applied and the job immediately goes to the foreigner.

And secondly and more importantly, the government should carry out wage surveys for different occupations and require employers to comply. For instance, California minimum wage may be about $8 per hour but the wage for a Software Engineer is around $60,000.00 a year, not minimum wage. On the other hand the prevailing wage of a hairdresser may be $40,000.00 a year. This requires the government or the private sector to put out prevailing wage figures for different occupations requiring compliance by employers.

For instance, a nurse assistant wage might be just $40,000.00 a year in the bay area of San Francisco, but you cannot get away with paying this to a Software Engineer whose job requires at least $60,000.00.

Unless you have these laws in place, a Singaporean employer could advertise a job at the nurse assistant rate for the Software Engineer and get away with it to employ the foreigner, who may well be prepared to accept it!

And what is even worse, without the need to pay a fair wage to every worker, the living standards decline and the worker as well as the state goes to the dogs, except of course Lee Kuan Yew family and his multi millionaire friends.

2. Second, they should be prohibited from conveniently placing  onerous conditions. For instance you cannot advertise for a job and require proficiency in Mongolian which a Singaporean is unlikely to know. After that claim no locals applied and give the job to the Mongolian!

3. For this rule to work, the job has to be tied to the particular employer. As the situation is now in Singapore, I understand once you are certified for your employment pass, you can move from one job to another without further certification.

4. It makes no sense to exempt firms with less than 25 employees from this requirement. If this is the case small firms can continue to hire foreigners at the expense of locals thereby defeating the intention of protecting locals.

5. The functioning of the government agency enforcing this rule must be open to public scrutiny and any local who is denied a job which subsequently went to a foreigner should be provided a grievance filing mechanism for the employer to justify the hiring. Otherwise they could simply give the job to anyone they want without the local ever knowing that he has been taken advantage of.

6. And there should be a separate labor court where these cases are filed enabling the worker to take the offending employer to court and demand adequate relief.

7. And finally any of this would only work if you had the rule of law and basic human rights. In Singapore where none of this exists, the locals will not only continue to be at the mercy of the employers, they will continue to be the slaves of the their government as well; as they are now.

I am sure Lee Kuan Yew's son is going to do nothing to truly implement any of this. Once again this new rule ostensibly to protect the local worker is instead going to protect the foreigner, as it has always been the case in business friendly island. Once again in Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore where foreign millionaires whizz around in their Ferraris and the locals drool with envy watching them, business interests have won again and the locals have gone to Hell once again.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
A Singaporean in Exile
Fremont, California USA
Tel: 510 491 8525


MadisonChua said...

So glad that you are still taking a keen interest in your homeland, Mr. Nair! This is an excellently written article. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Exemption for firms with less than 25 employees significantly undermines the law. For one, it adversely affects the prevailing wage when many firms are exempt.

Secondly, employees in small industries (e.g. Architecture) may receive no protection from the law at all.

Anonymous said...

New rules that fail to address racial discrimination against minority citizens seeking jobs. The UN Special Rapporteur on racism visited singapore(s'pore) in April 2010. He urged s'pore govt to enact law prohibiting racial discrimination in all areas of life including employment,education and health and that this law should include "reporting,reviewing and enforcement mechanism"(see report ARC/17/40/Add.2 at impunity this report has been ignored.The present guidelines on fair employment and guidelines on non-discriminatory advertising have miserably failed as exposed by the recent local media report about the concern expressed by a minority community about job discrimination(see Singapore Dissident 30 Aug 2013 for details).Under these guidelines(see employers and media are left to self regulate, a recipe for racial discrimination to continue.The s'pore govt bands on about employment based on merit when merit is a byword for inequality, where whole minority communities are stereotyped negatively instead of treating each person as an individual with qualifications, experiences , qualities etc.There is no real willingnesss on the part of the govt to tackle racial discrimination thus denying equal opportunity. Subtle employers practice racial discrimination in many ways, amongst these are(1)placing job advert that only a certain race apply(2)placing advert that requires proficiency in a particular language when the language is not needed to function in the job or is not needed for the essential requirements of the job(3)placing an advert in a language where the minority job seeker cannot read that language(due to racially discriminatory educational policies)when that language is not needed to function in the job etc(4)where during the filtering process of job application forms consciously or subconsciously exclude minority applicants(5)employer during the interview stage consciously or subconsciously do not select equally or more qualified minority job seekers. People there is no legal remedy against these kind of practices.If you have been raacially discriminated or if you see a job advert requring a particular race or language take a photocopy or clipping and if you have friends who can read the language medium of the advert, ask them to translate it for you and take photocopies of the offending advert and with details of the racial discrimination,time ,date,name and page number of periodical,staff name,govt dept,company the Special Rapporteur. The name & addressis: Mt Mutuma Ruteere, UN Special Rapporteur on racism,Palais des Nations,CH-1211 Geneva, Switzerland. fax: +41 2917 9006, e-mail: . If you fear victimisation say so in your letter and ask for your details to be kept confidential.If you are being victimised because you raised a racial discrimination matter then write to UN Special Rapporteur on racism with the relavant details mentioned above.

Anonymous said...

Re:New rules that fail to address racial discrimination against minority citizens seeking jobs.

Apologies to everyone for the typing errors:
1)The UN Special Rapporteur's report number should read: A/HRC/17/40/Add.2 .
2)From the bottom at line 5 after 'etc' it should read ",send to the Special Rapporteur.".
3)The UN Special Rapporteur's name and address is: Mr. Mutuma Ruteere, UN Special Rapporteur on racism,Palais des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 10,Switzerland. fax:+41 2917
4)If you come across any others,please correct them as you read. Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

I am a Singaporean and my pay is lesser then a foreigners, because they got a better job then me. Singapore is a multinational country, and every Singaporean child are taught to be racial harmony, we celebrate it too. Therefore Singaporean are not racist! Yes I welcome foreigner to get a job in Singapore and understand the difficulty of renting house now. But there are many job agency that is helping many foreigner like Philippines so on... If Singapore Government never put an effort to adjust hiring Singaporean first, the PR in Singapore is going to rise! Especially people from country like India, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia... Obviously to stay in a better governed country. I seriously hope those who study high enough will go back to their hometown to go for election or try to develop their country and stop trying to get PR in Singapore to 'live a easier life'. If not your future generations will need to work overseas again and in the end your hope is becoming their citizens... If you want to compare racism, lets compare Singapore with Indonesia or Malaysia or Saudi Arabia. Is a Muslim governed country and most benefits are given to the Malays like buying house, crime issue, subsidize or even find jobs. Singapore don't have a main religion and that's all is fair for all Singaporean no matter Malay, Japanese, Indian, Chinese or Westerner and many more... If you say about job issue, is mainly depends on the employer, is of no use if you hire someone who have bad attitude and is not trust able in the job itself.