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 http://www.straitstimes.com/archive/monday/breaking-news/singapore/story/firms-must-advertise-singaporeans-hiring-foreign-professionals-2013092
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.
Attorney at Law
A Singaporean in Exile
Fremont, California USA
Tel: 510 491 8525