44 Percent of Workforce Are Non-Citizens (our estimate)

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44 Percent of Workforce Are Non-Citizens (our estimate)

March 15th, 2010


The next time you hear the word “locals”, tell yourself it actually means “PRs and citizens”.

Similarly, “foreigners” means “foreigners who are non-PRs”.

Locals aren’t all Singapore citizens, and foreigners don’t include PRs. Confusing?

In yet another good example of the locals-foreigners confusion, the Manpower Ministry has proclaimed in its Labour Market 2009 report that “there were 1,053,500 foreigners forming 35.2% of total employment in December 2009″ (italics are mine).

By “foreigners”, the ministry is of course referring to “foreigners who are non-PRs”. The foreigners who are PRs are not included in the 1,053,500 count. Instead, they are lumped together with citizens in the “locals” group. It’s only on page 57 of the report that you get a clear and unambiguous statement on this:

“a local (also known as resident) employee is any Singapore citizen or Permanent Resident who is employed…” (emphasis mine).

So exactly how many non-citizens are there in our workforce? I don’t know.

But to get an idea of how many non-citizens are in our workforce – i.e. foreigners who are not citizens regardless of whether they are PRs or not – we have to do some calculations. (Heck, are they testing our maths?)

According to that MOM report, there are 1,053,500 non-PR foreigners and 1,936,500 citizens+PRs in our workforce.

Next, according to Singstat, there are 533,200 PRs. Let’s conservatively estimate that 50% of these PRs are active in our workforce. We shall cross-check* this ratio shortly.

This means: out of the 1,936,500 “locals”, 266,600 are PRs.

1,936,500 – 266,600 = 1,669,900

So, our workforce consists of 1,669,900 citizens, 266,600 PRs and 1,053,500 non-PR foreigners.

Add up the latter two and we have 1,320,100 non-citizens.

This is a hefty 44% of our workforce of 2.99 million. Ta-da.

44% of our workforce are non-citizens!

* Let’s cross-check the 50% employment estimate with that of citizens: out of the 3.2m Singapore citizens, 1.6699m are in the workforce as calculated above. This is already 52%. If anything, we should use a higher estimate for PRs. Don’t tell me PRs have more dependents than citizens – if they do, we should question why we are granting PR status to so many economically inactive foreigners.

Do you feel there are more than 44% non-citizens around you at work?

View more comments at Salary.sg Forums

106 Responses to “44 Percent of Workforce Are Non-Citizens (our estimate)”

  1. Dogg Says:

    Thanks for starting a topic to vent feelings of hatred against PRs and Foreginers .

  2. target the right people Says:

    It’s those who crafted the lax policies and those who laxly implemented the policies whom we should be venting our unhappiness against.

    Nothing wrong with foreigners taking advantage of the situation. If Malaysia, Myammar, Australia, Hong Kong are economically strong and have such lax policies, I too would take full advantage of them if I can. Who doesn’t want to make more money and improve his life?

  3. mandate Says:

    I support the PAP, but I do not want to give them the mandate to once again raise their own salaries and open the floodgates to let in foreigners depressing the salaries of mid to low workers. I would also like to see more transparency at all levels and across the board, and a less sycophantic parliament and mass media. Guess it is a hard decision for me at the ballot box.

  4. Dogg Says:

    What is the purpose of this analysis ?? Is it in anyway helpful for people who aim to increase their income. Or utilize their income in any useful way. From what I see, it highlights the fact that there are too many non-singaporeans working in Singapore. Is the Unemployment rate in SG too high. If it is around 2%, then the fraction of non-citizens should not matter, since there are enough jobs to accomodate all. So, I really dont see the usefulness of this analysis except to instigate further anger against the govt and more so against foreigners. Useless, Divisive Analysis.

  5. Dogg Says:

    Low Wages in Singapoe is very painful. However, I feel its not just the foreigners who lead to wage depression. Its competition against cheaper countries which offer similar jobs and services for less. A new phenomenon. Also, if the wages of Singaporeans is high, I feel a large number of you will simply migrate since opportunities in SG in education, univs, jobs are less. No wonder, despite a high GDP, salaries are so low. In my view, this is the way to make sure people stick to Singapore.

  6. catt Says:

    agree with dogg that this article serves no particular purpose, but its headline is indeed catchy and you will never find such headlines in the mainstream media.

    and btw, i learn from this article that locals refer to both citizens and PRs. why the hell should the government group them together? the least they can do is to create a third category called PRs. all along i thought locals mean citizens! from now i’ll be more careful with what i read or hear.

  7. JeffGoh Says:

    Each time if I take the MRT during peak periods, there seem to be more than 50% of foreign workers in the compartment.

  8. w Says:

    Been a PR myself I dun think this is something surprising. There is 5 Million population in sg and the EP/PR/”new Citizen” sum up almost to 2M.

    Exclude the retired and under-age citizens, I would estimate the foreigner/citizen ratio in work force to around 1:1.

  9. mandate Says:

    was it only in recent years that the ratio became 1:1? or was it all along like that?

  10. Temasek Review Says:

    Hi Ratt, I’m surprised you didn’t know locals comprise of PRs to make the unemployment figure artificially low and income high. Why don’t you visit http://www.temasekreview.com to know more about the harsh truths of Singapore?

  11. non-sequitur Says:

    does tht mean there are more non-citizen paying tax than singaporean?

    I wonder if non-citizen actually contributes to the tax coffer more than citizen…

    Then…. who is more deserving to stay?

    Just taking a tangeant off the dead beaten thought…

  12. mandate Says:

    maybe non-citizens contribute more. i think the govt should give them voting rights too. citizenship is overrated, just as family ties and blood relations are too. it’s all about running singapore as a business. just as the country is run like a business, we should learn from it and run our families like businesses too, sack your sons and daughters and hire foreign ones! and learn from jack neo, and buy an alphard!

  13. middeclass Says:

    non-sequitur: why not take it even further?
    let’s make it a law that anyone who does not make enough to pay any taxes will be stripped of their citizenship.
    that should include the old, sick, crippled and retards.
    we can put them on a wooden boat and set them adrift.
    but we can make an exception that slave laborers so that we stay competitive.
    after all we must keep our GDP up right?

  14. middeclass Says:

    mandate: yes i agree.
    why even bother giving anyone citizenship.
    let’s just start giving out corporate membership for all rich and successful people.
    the idea that singapore as a nation is a joke.
    everyone should look out for no. 1.

  15. Dogg Says:

    oh comeon, dont bring in sarcasm. u singaporeans dont give a damn about anyone. u just want enough foreigners to do the dirty job, serve u, pay ur Mortgages, and not crowd the place. the moment it became bad, start whining. comeon, ur govt is now taking measures to correct the situation.
    if u had to employ labor, u will urself employ cheaper maids n foreign labor. u wont care about the elderly. and the amount of support the govt gives is far more than what indian or chinese govts do. u want to reap the benefits of capitalism if u are well to do, else u want the safety net of socialism if u r a sore loser.

  16. middeclass Says:

    Dogg: we singaporeans?
    thanks for so conveniently putting all of us into a single box.
    either you are ignorant or a troll.
    see? at least i gave you 2 choices.
    either way i’m not interested.
    have a good day.

  17. Dogg Says:


    u got 2 choices: SocialistWannabe or Frustrated

  18. M'sian PR Says:

    face it.. Singapore is heavily dependent on imports(locals/non-local/new citizens).. sports, construction & engineering, F&B and even entertainment (your tv/radio personalities).

    good analysis tho, media & govt wouldnt dare to slap its sensitive pets with this blunt truth.

  19. I didn't sleep with Jack Neo Says:

    Middleclass, Singaporeans are already doing what you are describing. Parents suing their children for not providing for them is way up, and the statistics given by the government may very well be understated given how concerned the government is given all the campaingns, etc. I think what Dogg said isn’t unreasonable.

    Ripping foreigners seem to be the local’s favorite occupation as several of my expat friends like to observe. So it’s only right that foreigners are now kicking the locals’ behind. An eye for an eye.

  20. mandate Says:

    just as your wife has the right to divorce you if you are infidel, we have the right to let our unhappiness known in a national event in less than 12 months.

    argue all you want about socialism vis-a-vis capitalism but we all know what constitutes the ultimate report card of the PAP government.

    well, they can change the constitution to allow foreigners to vote. and this will be uniquely singapore again! first country in the world to give voting rights to foreigners! woo-hoo!

  21. middeclass Says:

    Stereotyping is a shortcut for bigots with simple minds.

  22. antiMiddleClass Says:

    I think people like MiddleClass are fighting for a Noble Cause: For A Little More Money :) What Singaporeans are facing now is a common routine for most PRs who come from less privileged backgrounds. Crowd, Unemployment, etc.

    I have been a student and seen elderly selling tissue papers in food courts. 90% of the time, I bght the tissue papers. And 80-90% of Singaporeans never did. Whats 2 dollars man. I think people who come from poorer backgrounds feel more sympathetic to the plight of the elderly than the slightly rich locals. Now, that they have issues, somehow they are using Elderly as a convenient pretext.

    As human beings, when a poor migrant fights for 2000SGD, he is a non-entity and treated like crap. However, people with a better passport deserve medical, housing, education for kids, vacations, cars, etc etc. even if they are simple mediocre. Why not apply socialism to poor migrants. Or at least Humanity if not Socialism.

    Thats why I do not buy the Singaporean Cause. They don’t care if they are rich. They whine when they are poor. Simple HUMAN Nature. Not a Great Cause to Fret aout.

  23. Migrant Says:

    Singaporeans, look to greener pastures! lol..


  24. middleclass Says:

    antiMiddleClass: personal attacks, assumptions, presumptions, exaggerations, straw man arguments and illogical conclusions.
    unfortunately your rant come across just as inane and spiteful as Dogg.
    For a moment I thought Dogg had been decide to come up with another cute name like antiMiddleClass after realizing he’s a shameful bigot.
    In any case good luck with your clueless hateful crusade against Singaporeans.

  25. Jeff Says:

    There are 2 sides to the argument. On 1 side are the beneficiaries of the policy, the other, the victims.
    It’s a human nature to fight for what you have so that you do not lose it. For the foreigners/PRs, it’s the job/security in S’pore which can lead them to better live than in their hometown, for the local born S’poreans, it’s the advancement of the country to the level of say, Switzerland, HK, Japan.
    Everybody seeks to progress, be it foreigners/PRs/Singaporeans. For foreigners/PR, you have already progressed in that you have gain globalisation or a secure job. However for Singaporeans, the country has been stagnant ever since the government made wrong policies in the past which resulted in the huge influx of foreign workers to reverse the result of those policies.
    For pple like antiMiddleClass, you said you come from a poor family, thus coming here has already elevated your salary/standard of living, but for pple like the low income/average Singaporeans,they have served their 2.5 years of NS, + whatever reservist time, they still have to compete with pple who didn’t serve NS.
    Actually, nobody is blaming the foreigners/PR for the predicament they are in. What their anger and fustration are focus on is actually the wrong policy of the government time and again yet they cover up their mistakes or simply shrug it off.
    If pple are coming into the country to level a playing field, thats fine, like if you go into Australia, employers have to pay you a salary that commensurate with the locals, thats a level playing field. But thats not what is happening here, when foreigners come in, they are coming here to uneven the playing field, eg, asking for lower salary, ability to work weekends because they don’t have a family here which are all possible as they do not have to support their family in Costly Singapore. Singaporeans can’t afford that, we all want our parents to retire early, to enjoy their life and not to work til death like what the government is forcing them to so as to support some god forsaken GDP figures.
    The ultimate mandate of a government is to advance the livelihood of ALL it’s citizen. Unlike now, where only the government and their lackeys can retire comfortably, have a blessed life etc. All the other pple, no matter what life they have, it’s none of their concern, as long as they maintain control over the country and the high GDP to support their salary increment.
    Both side have their own cause in the argue, however, the ultimate cause of these are the wrong policies cause by the government. Without which these arguments wouldn’t even have existed and that is what Singaporeans are fighting against, that the government take responsibility for it

  26. mandate Says:

    rightfully, this should never even have been an issue at all. it is so obvious that they have screwed up in a big way. next thing we know, our foreign friends here will suffer, but things will remain the same for citizens, and yet the government will laugh its way to the bank again with the raises in levies, COE and all the funny charges – given their excellent track record of using monetary incentives and disincentives to solve problems.

  27. No country for citizens Says:

    SG policies are really skewed towards non-citizen and I don’t think we could ever find another country that is so pro non-citizens.

    Singapore has given so much opportunities and freedom to non-citizens that they are not only much better-off (in wealth, happiness, social-status) than in their native country and has enable them to rant relentlessly and ask for more than the citizens. This forum is already a very good example.

    Singaporean always comes first? That’s a joke. Let’s welcome “Your Singapore”.

  28. - Says:

    i give up on this singapore inc liao. waiting for the right time to migrate to OZ or NZ. i’ll sell my HDB for neat profit, cash out all my cpf and get my s out of here.

    many people have done it and are happier.

  29. PR Says:

    Working here is getting tougher and harder, the pays get stagnant and cost is rising. The only way is either up or out … many try to go up but only a handful gets there , some gave up after yrs of traying and theya re out

    seen some of my PR friends have moved either to US or Australia, Major reason to live a more meaning ful lifes there , and education for their kids are less stressful

  30. No country for citizens Says:

    Singaporeans always come first? Big joke….the policies echo STB’s “Your Singapore”.

    I don’t think we can ever find another country which is as pro non-citizens. A nation that gives better opportunities and freedom for non-citizens (in wealth, happiness and social-status) compared to their native country at the expense of the citizens. Yet, still tolerant of non-citizens to rant and demand more over citizens, this forum is already a good example.

  31. PR Says:

    to solve this issue .. have more babies la

    its a number game , target is 6 mil , piak more often la , call it national service :) ,
    you want to own the cake and eat it ..ha ha .. you have to pay for it ..simple right.. who pay ? if wanr gov pay means every one pay lo

    At the moment most of the chio bus i know are interested in better quality of life ,dun wan to marry unless many hamdsome young warren buffet, some marry if the guy have this and that but after marry only want 1 or 2 only so that the expenses can be manage for a car, yearly migration to timbucktoo or the latest coolest gadget iphone 10.5GS… COE ,NATAS or IT fair ..record number right .. so how?

    it is normal for a develop countries to import not-so-talent, it happening in japan, US, UK blah blah

    i talk too much .. jialat back to work before my master ask me to lim kopi

  32. mandate Says:

    it’s a vicious cycle. how to have more babies when life is so stressful with all the non-citizens competing for a livelihood (more like competing for survival).

    i remember many donkey years ago, a tall guy said we should aim to achieve a Swiss standard of living (note: not jap standard) – i think it’s a good vision, but sadly we aren’t even close after trying for so many years.

    the swiss don’t import many foreigners and yet everyone lives well and enjoys high standards in ALL aspects of life.

    and i don’t think the swiss have many babies too. their fertility rate is 1.45 – it’s higher than ours most probably because they have better work-life balance and both parents and children are less stressed out.

    sell me this vision again.

  33. dogg Says:

    If Singaporeans have a Swiss level of life, everyone will migrate. Why go to ITE or Poly if you can go to a Aus or Canadian university. Why do a BioEngineering if u can do Medicine in Aus. Even though your GDP is very high, salaries are low to make sure that people do not have choice. If SG were a big country with a big population, it was feasible. Unfortunately, the only way Singapore can survive as a nation is if people do not have a choice. And to make sure they dont have a choice, they must not have MONEY.

  34. Jeff Says:

    How true. But then again, by having a swiss standard of living, it also means raising all aspects of our livelihood, this includes education, healthcare, employment. Raising the standard of our education provider is also part of it. Take a look at Taiwan, Hongkong, If i’m not wrong, their universities have overtaken Singapore in the Universities ranking. Our education system is too rigid, everyone is damn book smart, but not street smart. There’s no culture encouraging innovation, mistakes are punished immediately(Unless your part of PAP, in that case, there’s a seperate rulebook for that), doesn’t matter if the consequences are actually beneficial. With a system like this, how is the country going to improve?

  35. PB Says:

    It is obvious that everyone is quite upset by the topic. However, it is very clear as well that there is a whole load of complaining on this board, with people not willing to step up to do anything.

    1) Governmental policies are there for a reason. Stop complaining about them unless you have a better idea and can work through the web of policies that can make it work. If you bring in less foreign workers, then there are qualified people in the work field to take on the job. If there are less qualified people, the MNC can move headquarters to a country that has a more lax policy. Hence, more people lose their jobs. As you can tell, foreign policy is tough to work around.
    2) Yes, low wages are painful as Dogg has mentioned. However, high wages coupled with a high standard of living is even more painful. Food prices are exorbitant in Switzerland. Chicken rice does not cost 3 dollars, rather 20 dollars. They just imposed a ban on building minarets in the country. Would you rather stay there and subject yourself to be a foreigner with little rights? I don’t think so
    3) A lot of us earn low salaries. That is true. If a job with some company gives you no security, then start one of your own. Be open to venture out of Singapore. Don’t use family as an excuse because the foreigners in Singapore have families overseas as well. Any overseas experience is valuable, and when or if you come back to Singapore, you then show that you are capable of risk taking and have a capacity to lead.
    4) Each and everyone of you has the capability to excel and earn the pay that you want to. Negative comments about others and yourself does not help you, rather it serves as a tool for others to use against you.

    I leave you with something that left a deep impression on me. I hope it does the same for you.

  36. Dogg Says:

    I saw this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9ya...

    Really touching n inspirational.

  37. to PB Says:

    so you are saying the government never makes policy mistakes, we should never question any policy, view switzerland as a failure because prices are high, and start a business because our salaries are low despite all the fancy education we got?

    singapore CAN become like switzerland and even better if we have better leaders who themselves are open minded and really care for the progress of the nation.

    great leaders have transformed countries (lincoln, the roosevelts), companies (welch and ghosn), clubs (mourinho), schools etc.

    we need great leaders, not just good managers or worse, script readers who fall asleep at work.

  38. PB Says:

    Nowhere did I state that the government does not make mistakes. In fact, I full agree that they do. We should question policy, however not negatively but constructively. The key is if one identifies a problem, one should as well come up with a suitable solution. Again, nowhere did I state that Switzerland is a failure. We need to determine what good pay is first. One should be remunerated according to his contributions to the company. If you determine that 2000 is too low, what is a decent range that you should be remunerated for your position? There are ways that you can leverage you position in the company and your expertise to command larger pay. From what I know, with more pay, you are expected to take on more responsibility which can transpose into even longer working hours. Are you willing and able at the same time to take on this responsibility? If so, then there are numerous companies that can and will hire you. Again, positions are open in Singapore. It depends on the individual to exploit their skills and to find the job that compensates them accordingly. If you need examples of how this has happened for people, I would be happy to furnish you with details.

    It would be horrible if Singapore became like Switzerland. It is a beautiful place, but still segregated by language, monopolies and overly flexible rules that are difficult to change. The difference between Singapore and Switzerland is that Singapore has done in 40 years what Switzerland took more than a hundred years to achieve. Let us not regress and rather progress.

    Wonderful indeed that we both agree that great leaders are needed to bring our nation into greater heights. Hence, we need people willing to make the sacrifice to be educated, informed, trained and to be given a chance to step forth and lead. Again, the sacrifice is not easy, however necessary.

  39. No country for citizens Says:

    I get it from the video in youtube, don’t complain and work harder. And it seems there are an equal number of complains and frustration from the non-citizens as well in this board.

    To Dogg and the non-citizens here, then why are you guys ranting here? Dogg is the person too eager to make the 1st post here anyway.

    Singapore has already given you guys opportunities to improve your standard of living. What more do you guys want? What’s YOUR point of complaining here? Why not just work hard and be happy? You probably get even more discriminated in other country anyway.

  40. No country for citizens Says:

    PB, I like it when you mentioned “when one identifies a problem, one should as well come up with a suitable solution.” However, whether the policy makers willing to listen to the solution is another question.

    In the recent budget debate, Low Thia Kiang and Chiam See Tong recommended solutions to improve manpower policies. Were the recommendations taken constructively? You can probably imagine how fiercely they were shot down no matter who brillant they were. Hardly any sacrifice anyone would make to improve Singapore.

  41. PB Says:

    You have made a very valid point and that is a problem we can mitigate. There can be a way to bring this point up during the MP Sessions and to have them bring it up to parliamentary level. After all, the MP is there to be your representative and voice in parliament. It may seem to be a long chain in order to get your voice heard, however, it is a legal and non confrontational method to have our collective concerns addressed.

    Both opposition members hold great respect for their contributions. They both aim to do much good. Though I would like to see a more charismatic side from both their parties. They both have great ideas, though put forward in maybe a different way. I believe we need to analyse both arguments again to see why they were rejected.

  42. middleclass Says:

    PB : in order to have a meaningful conversation you need to first resist the temptation to so easily dismiss other people as complainers or whiners. I’m happy to listen and learn from what you have to say if you can be equally respectful to what others have to say. If you cannot do that then please stop reading here and don’t bother.

    I thought Jeff put it so much more eloquently than I could ever do and wrote a really good piece on the issues at hand.
    Have you read it?
    If not I strongly urge you to read it now.

    1) If democracy is not about citizen participation then what is?
    I find it offensive that a citizen be told that he/she should shut up unless involved as politicians or have ‘solutions’.
    There is no systems that i know of that can be healthy without open feedback.
    I hope when you said less qualified people you are not talking about Singaporeans.
    As what Jeff has said nobody is talking about stopping foreign talents from coming to Singapore and contributing.
    We are saying that the uncontrolled flow is causing wage depression and hardship.
    We are saying that if there are Singaporeans capable of doing the job there’s no reason to bring in cheap foreigners to compete on costs – because let’s face it business will almost always go for the cheaper options given choices.
    Look at the numbers and you will see that Singaporeans are not asking for the sky when it comes to wages.
    Let’s also ignore the fact that our govt are responsible for why cost of living in Singapore are so high.
    If it’s high it’s only because you are comparing it to wages from developing countries.
    As PR also said wage stagnation causes hardship for Singaporeans and foreigners alike.
    I dare say that Singaporeans suffer even greater given that most have little other safe harbour like another home country.
    But more importantly we must stop the exploitation on both Singaporeans and foreigners.
    I don’t believe all companies would move just because of single factor like costs and ignoring other risks like political stability, intellectual and labour laws, safe clean environment, efficient infrastructure, expat friendly living space etc.

    2) Swiss standard of living is a political lie pushed on us.
    But idea that Singapore and Singaporeans should all progress together is valid.
    Why else would we strive so hard?
    So that we and our children could have comparable living standards as other developing countries?

    3) As Jeff has mentioned we do not have a level playing field.
    To ignore it is to ignore the reality out there.
    If family is not an issue then ask the foreigners if they want to move their families over here and try competing as new citizens.
    I’ll be interested to hear what they think.
    You seems to believe that it’s easy for any Singaporean to just venture out and succeed easily somewhere else.
    Could you let us know which other countries have such open foreigner policies like Singapore that we could do that?
    Which other people are as accommodating as Singaporeans?
    You yourself have said that who wants to go to another country and be a foreigner with little rights?
    And why should Singaporeans be displaced because we are forced out by this open floodgate policy?
    Again we are asking just for a sensible policy so please don’t try to frame it as persecution of foreigners or xenophobia.
    After all isn’t the govt social contract to take care of it’s citizen first?
    Doesn’t the pledge starts with ‘We, the citizens of Singapore’?

    4) You are right about the negative comments.
    Please read the posts here and let me know who are the ones making vicious and spiteful comments?
    Show me which posts has Singaporeans attacking foreigners?
    Who are the bigots?
    Would these same jokers move to Australia for example and try the same stunts over there?

  43. to PB Says:

    and the productivity issue was first highlighted much earlier by Kenneth Jeyaratnam of Reform Party. nope, the PAP did not shoot it down then (fortunately for them), but instead adopted the idea much later when they run out of ideas!

  44. No country for citizens Says:

    Thanks PB. Your comments make sense.

    The intend and benefits of getting more non-citizens into Singapore have not been effectively communciated. Singaporeans are not convinced.

    In most countries, one of the ways to help mitigate this is to impose higher income taxes to non-citizens (including PRs). Singapore can probably apply the same. Even with higher taxes, there are still capable, hardworking people willing to work and settle down in more developed and secured countries than their native nations. It’s also a motivational factor to attract the good ones to convert to citizens.

    What are your thoughts on the 2 points?

  45. PB Says:

    Middleclass: Of course I appreciate your straightforwardness with regards to this matter. There is no dismissal of complainers or whiners, just a conscientious mind that we should stop complaining first and think of a solution. It is a general statement to us all.
    Jeff has made fantastic points and yes, I have read them. Let me try to address your issues as thoroughly as I can.
    1) If democracy is not about citizen participation then what is?
    Yes, I stand by the statement that one should find solutions first before voicing out. Complaining can only breed contention and if there is a real problem, then we should take action. Open feedback is constructive, and what you have done, is give very good feedback. Never would I think that Singaporeans are less qualified. Singaporeans are the most educated, strong willed and creative minds that I have met. As a Singaporean, I am truly proud to say that I am among the best in the world. Exactly because we have a uncontrollable flow, we have to curb it. You are very right on this matter. What is impossible though is to send these people back immediately, rather to control this flow, evaluate who should stay, and take action. Recently, steps have been taken and can be seen to already to be in effect. Let us be open to see if it works properly.

    If you don’t mind, I do not have access to these figures. What are we asking for and can these figures be matched to company staffing increase and future revenue?
    On contrary, I was comparing it to the salary of nations where I have done remuneration surveys on. These include many developed countries in Europe and Asia. As much as possible, we should take a census from comparable salary scales and professions as you mentioned.
    Wage stagnation is a problem in a recession. We are looking at moving out and to improve the economy. I actually look forward to see what will happen by 3rd Q this year to see if this stagnation continues.
    The policies that Singapore has structured for foreign companies are beneficial to both us and to the companies. I fully agree with your point. What I was trying to illustrate was the problems that can come from not being able to properly evaluate policy changes.
    2) Swiss standard of living is a political lie pushed on us.
    True on all counts. Though the Swiss standard I personally feel we have exceeded in many ways. Rather than a Swiss standard, we should start setting our own standards.
    3) As Jeff has mentioned we do not have a level playing field.

    There is no ignorance in this aspect. We all know that is true. The first thing we must do is realise, that’s this is not something we can change overnight. What we change now, we do it for the next generation. To move a step forward, we may have to take a step backwards instead.
    Yes, I do believe it is easy for Singaporeans to venture out, that is if they want to and are willing to. I am not saying you will start at the top or even at the middle, but you will gain immense experience from living overseas and fending for yourself. New Zealand has offered Singaporeans entry with open arms. Before that, Australia has quite the open door policy as well. I know of many Singaporeans that currently work in the EU and the States. I agree, the foreigners have it easier, and that just means that we Singaporeans should work harder and emerge stronger from this.
    I understand what you have said. Again, there is no framing or persecution here. Only opinions about what we can do as one people.
    If the productivity idea was adopted as you said, then isn’t that an admission that they have made a mistake and are willing to take the steps to mitigate it? I would like to think that it is better that they adopted it, rather than not.

  46. middleclass Says:

    PB : i find your positive attitude and optimism very admirable.
    Nothing wrong there.
    However I also need to point out that the reason why most Singaporeans are skeptical is due to the govt history of paying lip services just before the elections and then doing what they please after.
    As bushie used to say ‘fool me once shame on you, fool me…can’t get fooled again.’
    While you are right that these problems cannot be changed overnight you should also note that these problems did not happen overnight either.
    The govt would need to examine itself first why the ground is turning sour.
    It’s hardly helping that their first and continuing habit is to blame Singaporeans for problems their policies created.

    As a manager I agree with you that I expect my staff to think of solution before they raise issues.
    But I would never expect my lowly operators to provide solutions to problems that is beyond their comprehension and sphere of control or influence.
    That should never stop them from raising an issue.
    This is common sense.

    Wage stagnation did not happen just recently due to the recession.
    We already had wage stagnation during the so called golden age when the floodgate was opened and cost of living started rocketing out of control.
    Pretty evident from the housing prices and salaries figures among others.

    Speaking from my experience working in MNCs I can safely say that salaries are only one factor that companies consider when they decide where to move.
    That cost is nothing compared to companies making a wrong move and risking business disruptions due to political instability, infrastructure problems, corruption, sanctions or intellectual property theft etc.
    Not to mention that MNCs have most of their salaries cost because of expats that they need to manage their business.
    These expat costs are even higher in most other countries.
    They are depressing wages because they were given the choice.
    That’s no different from local SMEs doing the same thing.
    As a region manager I am also pretty familiar with regional and global conditions.
    I can also say that Singapore salaries alone are not going to scare away companies because of all the other competitive advantages we have.
    Those that leave will eventually leave no matter what if we are just competing on costs.

    I would disagree with you that it’s easy for Singaporeans to venture out.
    Yes that could be true for a small percentage of very talented and top talents.
    However that’s not true for the majority of the normal Singaporeans.
    None of the countries have such open policies and NZ is hardly a robust economy compared to Singapore.
    The point is also then why should they be forced to be displaced from their country and families to move under much less favorable conditions?
    Again nothing against venturing out and opening new frontiers but don’t persecute those that either does not want to or cannot.
    Don’t follow the govt logic that just because a developing country person can live on much lower salary or forced to go to another country to earn a living therefore another Singaporean must do that too.
    Why should an equally capable Singaporeans be punished or force to shoulder the failings of other countries?

  47. adiemuso Says:

    SG salaries are peanuts in comparison to similar economies. In football lingo, its like a first team footballer getting paid 30,000 per week in EPL when the rest are easily drawing in excess of 50,000.

    However, you cannot jux raise wages or salaries for a specific group. That will cause income gaps. So you have to raise wages for everyone. Good, but how viable? All wages up despite individual performances? Since, many are managers here, ask yourself if you are willing to give everyone a raise of say 5% despite his/her lack of competence?

    Wages drive price levels, thats basic economics. Higher wages have to come from somewhere, retained earnings, taxes, higher prices, higher overall costs. There is no free lunch in this world.

    Living Standards are a big grey area, and there is no perfect apple for apple comparison. Alot of it is subjective and is not bias free. Comparing SG with Swiss or AU or Shanghai or TKY is not a fair comparison.

    Compare SG with similar economies with similar low tax structure, and u might find SG isnt that far off.

    Compare SG with Swiss, Scandiavian, Europe, AU, where taxes are higher, and u might find SG is far off. But do factor in the costs, explicit or inplicit.

    That said, Im not saying we cannot do anything about our situation. We can change. Comparing via costs in this Asia Pacific region is self suicidal. Only way is to move up the value chain. How to? Thats a million dollar question. For managers, ask yourself, how do you improve your overall KPIs, increase your staff standards and not blowing up your budget? Its not as easy as what some think. And pointing fingers at convenient targets cannot solve anything.

  48. adiemuso Says:

    SG economies operate largely on capitalism. Biz owners are profit seeking. Unless u overhaul the whole system, this issue of low vs high costs (read low wages vs high wages) will be a sticking issue.

    Some folks have attribute wage costs to a low proportion of biz in SG. But, do look carefully, many biz are still heavily reliant on labour, hence labour costs are important to such small setups, which in turn affect the whole economy. Company specifics attributes (capital intensive, High Tech, Low wage component) are jux part of a bigger overall economy. And companies cannot operate soley on themselves, neither are they shielded from external fluctuations i.e higher labour costs in logistics, service.

    These are points that many fail to see.

  49. Jeff Says:

    Basically, what most pple here feel is not that we want change immediately, we’re just unhappy that the government is denying all these facts that are happening around us. Worst still, they’re blaming us for it. It’s basically like the directors making decisions and then when things goes awry, they blame the staff for failing in their jobs. How would this even be possible in commercial world? The whole board of directors would be overhauled when that happens.
    They say that it’s different when it comes to politics. But it’s a fact that themselves are the one who tried ways and means to justify their own fat salary pegged at top 40 earners? Talking about free lunch… I think they’ve ate so much they grew so fat.
    While many of us are unhappy with the wages/salaries standard of Singapore, we also understand that these are things that we can’t control as all businesses needs cost control. However, if you were to look into finer details of what caused all these wage distortion. You will actually find that it’s all due to our own policies, by becoming too eager to push our home grown corporation into “elite” status, they poured millions of our money into all these state owned companies, resulting in unfair competition with others smaller setups. By putting in untried and untested former political/civil service leaders at the helm of these companies, they subject the culture and values of these companies to the same regimental and authoritarian management practised by government agencies, thus restricting creative thinking.
    All these in turn contributed to the current situation we are in. By advocating cheaper, better, faster, they are in fact competing directly with countries like Indonesia, China & India, the masters of unlimited labour supply. Eventually, these low cost outfits would also move over to China/India to take advantage of their growing markets.
    While I admit cost leadership is an excellent growth engine for an emerging economy. We can no longer grow on cost leadership in our current situation. In order to attract companies to set up offices in our country, the government has lowered labour cost and improved the standards of living in the country. All these served to make the country attractive to them. However, the ultimate victims are the pple as we are the package that makes them come, but we do not have the luxury to enjoy the improvements the government built.

  50. PB Says:

    Thank you very much for your kind words of encouragement middleclass,

    Your point here I would guess is that the issue lies with forecasting. As we think back to when policies were implemented and when they actually follow through or take effect, we realise that we have fallen behind the trend and are in need of change. The issue I believe is that there is always a lag between the policy issuance and effect.

    The operations side as well should raise issues of course. Like in Japan, the automobile industry operation staff came up with a handy way to raise issues on the assembly line. The key would be close interactions between the frontline staff and operations. It also boils down to culture. When introduced to US auto makers, an issue was raised repeatedly when the staff could have solved it themselves. Now we have to ask if we were to put us Singaporeans in the same situation, would we tend towards the Americans, or the Japanese methodology.

    Of course salary would not be the only factor as you have already mentioned. However, we have the problem of rising costs as well, with regards to rents, expectations of staff etc. With these rising cost and possible future expenditure requirements, we may see further move out of MNCs then we may expect.

    You have very sound reasons for Singaporeans not to venture out. I take more to the other side of the debate. Interviews with headhunters have had this issue surface that Singaporeans are not as willing to venture out as other nationalities. This poses an issue that Singaporeans can lack overseas experience, multicultural or specific cultural management, and some of these factors can affect their chances of ascending up the ladder.

    The increase of wages across the board may not be that viable an idea, hence, a tiered approach may be more sufficient in this case. With top performers gaining a higher salary, and lower performers with a lower tier salary. Of course, with any method of compensation, there are pros and cons, hence, more analysis into this matter would be needed.

    Agreed that living standards are hard to compare. However, let us take a look at the living conditions, the advancement of infrastructure and even the tax, you will find Singapore is way ahead of many modern economies.

    No countries for citizens – your points are well taken as well. Top down communication is a problem not just within organizations but within countries as well. I think this is an aspect that requires much needed attention. However, channels are open to us to hear about how the crafted policies and benefits affect us. The issue may be how many of us actually seek to find out.

    The tax issue is an interesting debate point. I agree that higher taxes may be a good idea for non-citizens. However, the way the tax is structured and the justification for it must be well communicated. What I believe in is applying a “Social Tax” to expats. The form is to inform that the person coming to the country is effectively taking over the position of a citizen who can or may be qualified for the same position. Hence, there is a social effect of having the expat in Singapore. This can be a fair method of applying a higher social control of who is allowed to enter Singapore as well, allowing for greater scrutiny of expatriate inflows.

  51. middleclass Says:

    PB : to be clear we are talking about 2 different groups of Singaporeans.
    One very small group businessmen, entrepreneurs or talented Singaporeans that could be reluctant or unwilling to venture out.
    However you may have answered yourself when you said that Singapore is way ahead of most other countries and nobody wants to go to another country and be a foreigner with little rights.
    Talents should move to areas of opportunities and vibrant economies – Singapore, HK, London, NY etc.
    In any case this small group of elites are not what we need to talk about or worry about.
    Our problem lies with the larger majority of capable Singaporeans that are being displaced or forced to compete with developing country wages.
    The question is should these capable Singaporeans be forced out of Singapore because we need to keep wages low with open floodgate of foreigners?
    Let’s forget for a moment that Singaporeans are one of the most indebted people in the world because of housing loans.
    My point is that we do not have to be forced to compete on costs.
    Unlike some people who sprouts nonsense on what they don’t know about I’m speaking from my own experience.
    I’m not talking about indiscriminately raising everyone’s wages without justification.
    I’m talking about not importing another foreigner if we already have the local talent.
    In my career I’ve been constantly been challenged about why I’m putting my operation in Singapore.
    I’ve always been able to make my justifications on numbers and value propositions.
    So what if my team was slightly more expensive than if I were to move to a developing country?
    My team has consistently been one of the best performing outfit around.
    We are respected regionally and globally within the company.
    Do you want to know who are the people losing their jobs?
    Short sighted people like my ex-boss who is a one trick pony when it comes to selling Singapore as a low cost center of operations by employing cheap foreigners.
    The irony it must be when the company turned around and told him that he was too expensive.
    Some people think that talking about wage costs means that they are fit to manage a business.
    I’m telling you that competing on cost is like a competition to see who can swallow the poison pill the fastest.

  52. Barclays Capital Says:

    You are wrong.
    There is less than 10% locals in Barclays Capital Singapore.
    Most of them are from Philippines, India.
    Very few PRC.

  53. adiemuso Says:


    I seriously hope that your case can be easily replicated across all companies in SG, but my hunch is that chance of sucess is rather minute.

    SG is in a situation where we have to decide fast and decisively. Do we move up the value chain or do we continue to compete on costs? SG’s economy based on Manufacturing n Financials. Like it or not, SG limited local pool of Talents are insufficient to fill all these biz.
    (and to digress a little, classification of FTs are a tough and tricky issue. Indian IT experts and Indian HDB Estates Cleaners can be both FTs)
    Even increasing salaries for Fund managers, Doctors, Scientists, Hairdressers, Chefs willnot raise the number of qualified SG talents in such occupations over a short period of time. There will be more engineers, life sciences, finance, chefs, fine arts graduates overtime, but key is how many of these will be truly talented?
    (i doubt Middleclass or many forumers here can be easily replicated amongst your SG peers)

    Stopping FTs, Increasing FT Taxes, Raising Locals Wages or having more regulation all adds to higher costs of business and indirectly higher costs of living. Ask any Mgmt folks in construction, F&B, Manufacturing, Logistics and many other biz if they think their setup is not reliant on FTs. Even ourselves are reliant on FTs, we have PH or ID FTs as domestic helpers, IN HDB cleaners, CH construction workers, MY cooks/hairdressers, PH nurses, EU professionals, lecturers, scientists, researchers….

    Substituition will continue to be a viable solution for talent scarce SG. And in my view, the problem we are facing is not FT substituition of Local Talent per se, but rather how SG is going to change our position in the current climate.

    Remove them and replace with local talents. Sure, but how many Locals are truly capable of

  54. adiemuso Says:

    Remove them and replace with local talents. Sure, but how many Locals are truly capable of providing the same service standards or productivity levels?

    Im a supporter of market capitalism, because it brings growth. However, I also agree with socialism, that we need to provide social security and welfare for the masses esp the underpriviledge. The paradox here is both systems do not coexist in harmony. So something has to give.

    Are we SG prepared for higher costs of living, i.e higher taxes to supplement welfare system? End of the day, its an SG issue, taxing FTs is not a complete solution.

    Neither is shaking up the whole system a viable one, unless one has a set of concrete and practical alternatives. True enough, CEOs and Mgmt should be responsible for poor performances, but they should not be hung in a witchhunt over a slipup. Afterall, where are the “truly talented” who had left the organisation, complaining of stifling culture, and are found in swanky offices drawing huge paychecks while penning critisms and personal attacks behing the veil of anonymity?

  55. Jeff Says:

    You are missing the point here, nobody says that we should send all of them back, but what we are saying is, to make it fair for everyone, regardless of what country you are from. Right now, we are losing out on cost plainly because we need to support us and our family’s cost of living in Singapore. While FTs can afford to ask for less but still support their family in their own country, this is what we are unable to do. If you live all by yourself, so be it, but there are countless Singaporeans out there who needs to support their family. If you have dependants in your home, you will understand what I mean.
    Any visit to the doctors for my mum/dad will easily cost $200-300. Food/utilities/transport per month for a family of 5 with 2 elderlys, 1 married couple and a son will easily hit a 2000-3000 anyday. Don’t tell me about eating cheaper food/ walking instead of taking public transport. The reason why we’re paying these monkeys millions of dollars are to make sure we are able to enjoy the standards of living they have created. However, this does not seem to be the case. Ask yourself, how many people out there can actually enjoy their life with the cost of living in Singapore, if there are alot, then there won’t be so many Singaporeans in Malaysia’s Carrefour or City Square every weekend.
    Singapore is a business friendly country, in fact, it’s so accomodating that the government will sacrifice the livelihood of their citizens just to make companies set up here.
    As I said, we do not want them to send everyone of the FTs back straight away, but at least take into account the fact that most of the born and bred citizens here have their family in Singapore, thus there is no way we can survive with the salary offered to foreigners.
    You said we are facing a talent scarce in Sg. So, let them come, we are basically fine with it. we can work together, but, on equal terms and on our terms. Not on their terms, lower salary, working saturday and sunday.
    Nobody is complaining that Goodyear was originally taking over Temasek, we know that because he is experienced in handling big corporations, in fact, we were so happy that LoserH was going to be replaced, Why? Mainly because we know it’s value adding, he can bring temasek to the next level. Taking that as a comparison, we do not mind a better person taking our jobs, since wealth creates wealth, they would help the company expand and create more jobs. But replacing us just because they’re cheaper? That’s the whole issue here.

  56. middleclass Says:

    Jeff : excellent post.
    If I may also add that by all accounts we seems to have quite a few successful managers in this forum.
    What I have done is nothing unique or extraordinary.
    I have had to, and continue to be questioned and listen to every ignorant and short sighted people on why Singapore is too expensive because Singaporeans are liabilities, not competitive, pampered etc.
    On and on like broken records that no, no, no, cost, cost, cost, can’t be done, shouldn’t be done, forget about it etc.
    Yet I continue to show everyone in my company that even for a cost center like IT we can justify our premium existence in Singapore.
    It takes a little conviction and hard work, sticking your neck out and trusting that you are doing the right thing.

    I can only hope and urge that the decision makers here choose the right decisions when it comes to what’s best for Singaporeans and Singapore, your families, yourselves and your children.
    I’m also determined to exercise my right and responsibility to make the right choice in the coming election if i’m given the chance.

  57. Boiling Point Says:

    The number of foreigners in Singapore has really reached a boiling point level. They’re crowding every place: from MRTs to housing estates. My condo seems like its not in Singapore but in India, as it is full of Indians. And I’m not sure why the focus is on low wage workers. It is the PMETs who are suffering the brunt of this foreigner onslaught.

    I’m a well qualified PMET. However, I was let go from my job. Now, I have been looking for a job for over 3 months now, but have not found anything satisfactory. Meanwhile I see the foreigners being hired in droves in good positions. Especially people from India. They are really taking all the high end, well paying and challenging jobs here. I have nothing against them, but really, in which developed country would you see foreigners being so openely welcomed to the job market, especially in times like these.

    I’ve started to think that now Singapore government only cares about GDP growth numbers, whether it is from Singaporeans or foreigners.

    @Dogg: Your comments are really stupid. We have the right to question policies that affect our jobs and income. I see so many jobless Singaporeans and employed foreigners that it’s not funny.

  58. Jeff Says:

    Chill, everyone is entitled to their own comments, as no matter who the comment is from. It is worth listening to, if not, we will be just like this government here, narrow mind, tunneled vision with a one way traffic. Every comment should be taken as a way to look at ourselves and to reflect ourselves.
    I am not exactly affected by this FT intrusion in Singapore as I’m in audit line, we’re all paid the same regardless of being Singaporeans/foreigners. Thus my view here is mostly derived from observation of pple around me and in avenues like this.
    dogg & adiemuso comments are true to some extent, the market still need low cost labour to survive. However, one thing you need to take note of, are the companies taking in the low cost foreigners because they need to? or just because they’re cheaper so they take advantage or it, if thats the case, then they are betraying the purpose of importing low wage workers here.
    Another thing, companies which sets up office here, if they practise cronyism, and only employs pple from their own country. Why do we even allow them to set up business here? They only come here because of the security and the infrastructure. But Singaporeans are the ones who serve NS and protect Singapore from harm & thus their business. Then why is the government doing nothing to protect these Singaporeans from unfair policies?

  59. adiemuso Says:


    so what are ur solutions? apart from doing what u believe, and insisting in believing what u had experienced is going to be good for every single Singaporean, what do you wish to see a change in SG if you have a choice to say?

    I do not see any solutions apart from your sharing of your own personal experience and “grudges”


    I think if you really meant what you had said about being open and allowing different views to be heard, you should have gotten my drift.

    I strongly believe tat actions speak louder than words. And i do not believe in dissenting for the sake of dissent. Similarly, I have witnessed and read too many cases of the suppresed revolting to only becoming the next oppressor. Sometimes it is hard to believe that people can truly think and behave for the sake of the commonwealth. Call me a realist, i believe everyone lives to advance or at least secures his own survival.

    Though there are some flaws in the current system, but in all fairness, i still prefer this to many others i.e corruption, outrite discrimination, racism, high taxes to fund social welfare. Of course, if we can have the best of everything, pure Utopian at best!

    Throughout history, rotten systems crumbled, get overthrown, experience tumultous evolution and finally stability. Only similarity between all societies is conflict and chaos for the common people who are in fact rather indifferent but are somehow stirred into revolutionary actions.

    Thus my point is, do not start a fire out of nothing, for a fire might spin out of control and burn everything down. And most of the time, the innocent bystanders are the ones getting hurt most.

    This issue of FTs, we all knoe is not as simple as we make it to be, the implications and repercussions are far wider than what you and i could possibly think. It might not only be the top who are responsible, sometimes its the people around that perpetuates this malfunction! As long as people are self serving, biz and organisations will be so, hence the endless pursuit of profits and self gains will only lead to exploitation.

    What we should ask is how do we neutralise or nullify such possible negativities and not conveniently push the blame to some easy target.

    I shall end here.

  60. middleclass Says:

    adiemuso : wow, so basically you are saying that my experience does not matter?
    After all the posts you have just dismissed everything that i’ve said and twisted what i’ve been proposing in a few lines?
    You have used big words like utopia, capitalism and socialism without really knowing what you are sprouting about.
    Your one single argument is that we are just whiners and complainers.
    Basically not much different from any other narrow minded and ignorant fools i’ve tried to talk sense to.
    Then I shall also end here.

  61. Dogg Says:

    @Boiling Point:

    U see many unemployed Singaporeans. and how many of these Singaporeans ever admit that they are jobless due to their own shortcomings. I guess, almost none. Its always the cheap labor, discriminatory policies, etc. And who is firing them. Singaporean bosses who dont care about the flight of fellow citizens who do NS and save the country. If u were a boss, what would u do ?? Maximize ur profits.

    Stop thinking of urself as better than foreigners from China, India, etc. Compare the benefits u get from ur govt compare to what people in India, China get from their govts. All you people want is protectionism which is against the philosophy of singapore economy.

  62. Dogg Says:

    @Boiling Point

    Are you only whining like this since u lost ur job. Even tho u may think u are exceptional, I assure u that there will be 1000s of people who can replace u. Excellent people are not getting fired even in bad times.

    And, good to know that u dont like too many Indians in ur condo. Deep down, maybe u despise people from other races.

    If u had not lost ur job, u mite not be posting here too. And when u develop an objective perspective, post again.

  63. adiemuso Says:


    my apologies if you misread my post. i respect ur experience and views. but wat is your solution to this issue???

    your answer: “It takes a little conviction and hard work, sticking your neck out and trusting that you are doing the right thing.”

    “I’m also determined to exercise my right and responsibility to make the right choice in the coming election if i’m given the chance.”

  64. Dogg Says:

    middleclass is an emotional person. while i respect him and countless other singaporeans, they know deep down that there is probably no solution…things can change a bit here n there but there will always be some people who will be pissed off…

    the only solution is to put fite n hope to do well as an individual….be in the top 10-20% and not in the remaining 80%….

  65. mandate Says:

    adiemuso, i see that you want people to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

    however, these problems exist because of failed policies, so we should ask the policy makers to come up with good solutions that make sense to the people.

    if i’m paid a few million dollars, have a whole office of scholars and have a media that always agrees with me, i’m sure i can come up with good solutions.

  66. mandate Says:

    dogg, it seems your solution is to take the bitter medicine, bear with the circumstances and fight to the top. but the circumstances were forced upon the people because of bad policies. maybe another solution is to voice our discontent at the ballot box, so the policy makers can be more careful next time.

    if your boss is bad, you can change jobs. if your school is bad, you can attend another school. why do you have to bear with the circumstances if you can change them?

    if the leaders are bad, get them out.

    sometimes it’s not always your fault. from dogg’s perspective, maybe it is, but for many people, i don’t think it’s _always_ their fault.

  67. Dogg Says:

    its not always people’s fault. but these are the same leaders u were happy with till 2003. and now suddenly, they have become ur enemy. maybe, they just cant do much abt it. ya, please vote them out. i am not a supporter of dynastic politics.

  68. passerby Says:


    you are probably the most emotional whiner here and the first person most readily to comment to this post. Obviously, you have not read or have not understood what the others have been writing. Nobody is pointing fingers at anyone.

    But you are criticizing those in plight rather than coming up with solutions that can help both citizens and non-citizens altogether. Simply, just a little selfish coward afraid of policies changes that will alter your own standard of living. You are the kind of people that hinders social integration that we have made a big mistake in importing in the first place. I really question how much sales you bring in, cost you save and productivity you generate for Singapore versus the grief to bring to the nation.

  69. adiemuso Says:


    i think otherwise. what is good about being cynical n critical and not constructive about issues that matters to not only the policy makers but also you and me?

    when you see a car’s windows being smashed while parked in your condo’s carpark, what do you do? shrug and pass some remarks, anyway, there are disclaimers and signs around saying its not the mgmt’s fault and if there is any responsibility the mgmt should do something abt it. they are paid for it, not me.

    i truly believe that if we do have feasible and practical ideas to solve issues, we should voice it out and let it have its way to the relevant policy makers. Ranting abt “show me the $$$”, “its your job” are not constructive.

    Man like Tan Kin Lian, came out to voice his concerns and offer real solutions regarding the minibonds and other issues. That is what I would call constructivity.

    That is what SG should be heading towards. Open and objective discussions, not emotional outbursts and antagonistic remarks.

  70. mandate Says:

    ok, i’ll try. how about this:

    1. invest in education. with the 4th uni, they are headed in the right direction. this is long term. productivity gains won’t be noticeable in the near future.

    2. invest in work-life balance. give incentives to promote family life. less stress at work. more time at home. more babies will follow.

    3. if 2 is successful, they can then better regulate the flow of foreign labour.

    4. promote free discussions. free the media to comment constructively on policies, and not just always blindly support all policies. maybe get a senior editor to start writing about the current ground sentiments. without repercussions.

    with 4 alone, you will get lots of ideas for solutions. students – our future pillars – will also grow up in a less stifling environment (did your teacher or parents ever ask you to stop criticizing the government in public?) and not grow up to become yes-men yes-women. they will learn how to think out of the box and perhaps some of them will join the league of bill gates, steve jobs and larry page.

    5. telecast live all parliament discussions (again). we want to see our MPs in action and will evaluate their performance with our own eyes. opposition members also get a chance to show singaporeans that they have constructive ideas and are not troublemakers who need to be fixed.

    ok i tried. the next thing i hope _not_ to hear is: “now go stand for election to prove you walk the talk”!

  71. adiemuso Says:

    tks..dun worry i wont ask u to go stand for election..its more complicated than what we think it is..besides talking is very different from walking…but i do appreciate your wonderful efforts!

    your point 5 is interesting…dedicate a channel whereby ppl can assess the full debate on tv or demand on line..there is a difference between reading prints and watching real images..sometimes i really wan to watch a little more indepth about the sessions but find that its really hard to find or access them..

    I think there is a need for a much open discussion of issues and restrain from appearing over elitist or paternalistic when it comes to regulations and such. We are all in a very different world now, education levels and demographic makeups are very different from 1960s. And IT and globalisation have made all these differences even greater.

    As far as im concerned, educated ppl are not contented to be told n ordered around. There is a need and desire to be engaged and having opportunities to excel and be challenged.

    idealism apart, the immediate problem of widening income gap and FT needs to be solved or at least alleviated.

    First, provide full funding for children from poor backgrounds. That will alleviate alot of financial pressures for the poorer families. It is not welfare, in my view, it is long term investment. In a way it can be structured as a benefit as long as the parents are willing to undergo training n upgrading and be gainfully employed, the kids education should be borne by the state. Govt school fees are not expensive anyway, thats the official stand. so why not subsidise full for the poorer SG?

    Second, have a tougher screening on FTs. Do scrutinise more carefully before stamping on visas or workpasses. Be more generous and creative with the carrots for employers to employ Locals over low costs FTs. govt agencies and GLCs should walk the talk too, give chances for locals to rise up to managerial posts.

  72. passerby Says:


    I love your 2 suggestions but I believe those are what Jeff and middleclass have already been recommending.

    I’m not taking anyone’s sides but it seems you are playing 2 sides. The 2 recommendations that you have provide will definitely drive costs up, which you are vehemently against.

  73. adiemuso Says:


    do you like the suggestions?

  74. middleclass Says:

    adiemuso: incredible that you are still asking what my suggestions after so many posts.
    I have repeatedly stated that we don’t have to and shouldn’t have to be forced to compete on costs.
    There are many other competitive advantages that Singapore have that we can sell on.
    There is no need to import foreigners when we already have capable Singaporeans locally.
    I have worked in a few top MNCs and now sits on the region management team.
    I have visibility on the region and across other regions plus i know how decisions are being considered and taken.
    I would like to think that i do know a little of what i’m suggesting from my first hand experience.
    You on the other hand seems to be fixated on just lower costs and salaries.
    You seems to believe that Singapore will collapse if we put controls in place.
    Maybe you could educate me from your actual experience avoiding any catchphrases like capitalism or socialism on why you believe companies will abandon Singapore if we refuse to import foreigners to depress wages.
    Which companies will leave if they cannot employ a cheap foreign master degree to do a job that a local diploma or bachelor degree can do?
    Why do you think other competitive factors do not matter?

    In any case cost is something the govt should be responsible – our public housing is the single most expensive cost on most Singaporeans.
    It’s pretty insulting to our intelligence to be told that 30 years loans are affordable for 99 years leases and foreigners don’t affect prices.
    Most Singaporeans will not have enough money for retirement and are one major illness away from disaster.
    How’s that for progress?

  75. middleclass Says:

    Dogg: now you respect me and countless other Singaporeans??
    What happened to the whole hateful bigoted post about ‘you Singaporeans’???

  76. adiemuso Says:


    cool it. i have never doubted your experience. Im sure you have what you claimed.

    but, have you ever have the chance to really talk to your board of directors or really understand where they are coming from? do not assume, thats what i have been taught by many successful leaders.

    in the business world, it all boils down to dollars and cents. tell me which company in the world have no regard about spiralling costs? unless, like i have mentioned, the future rewards are projected to be greater than costs or they are strategically or tactically tied down here. competitive advantage, those are terms which are highly subjective and sometimes unquantifiable.

    and, SG economy is not jux about MNCs which can absorb rising costs, there are many other players that run on tight margins as well. and remember MNCs are not obligated to stay in SG forever. Im not too sure about all your top MNCs that you ahve been. do you noe how hard our EDB/Govt have been working to have these MNCs staying here?

    cost is something that has to be considered not only by the govt but oso the private sectors. they can take the lead, but ultimately it boils down to the coffeeshop owners who decide to hire an auntie for 800 or a FT for 500, the SMEs who needs to balance their bks and decision hinges on hiring local ITE grads at 1500 or FTs at 1000, the graphic designers who can hire a NAFA local grad at 2,000 instead of a FT at 1,500 and the banks who can hire Indian MBAs over local NUS,NTU,SMU,SIM grads with passes with merits.

    Tell me how do you as a country manager decide? do you balance your books or fulfill the national duty? Tough isnt it.

  77. adiemuso Says:

    costs do not matter?

    when you go hungry, you realise ideals cannot be eaten. but before you were hungry, when you were full and satisfy, you thought ideals matter more than mere bread n butter.

    not all SG are lucky as u, working in top MNCs and i assume having a comfortable life. many are struggling and if you have the empathy or even sympathy, you will probably realise, what they need are not ideals but solid plans that deliver three meals and a shelter for themselves and their dependents.

    though our system might not be perfect, which i fuly agree with you, what you are appearing to be trying to do seems to me is a very dangerous game of walking along a very thin line. and i am as a fellow professional, feeling very upset that you are having such thoughts. but at the same time, am glad that you are not a policy maker.

    i shall post no further comments on this issue here anymore.

    my sincerest apologies if i had upset anyone.

  78. middleclass Says:

    adiemuso: again twisting my words and dismissing my points.
    When did i said cost does not matter?
    You wrote 2 posts and rant round and round and still comes back basically saying that you think salaries cost will ruin businesses.
    Do you even understand what is the total cost of doing business?
    Talk to my board of directors?
    That just confirmed for me that you know nothing about how corporations runs.
    Let me give you a clue – when business decides where to setup their operations salaries are seldom in their strategic planning unless the business depends on slave labours.
    Yes I’m easily in the top 10% of Singaporeans doing very well but unlike you i’m not so selfish to think that i’ve made it so screw all those poor bastards crushed under the wheels.
    I’m also not so short sighed to ignore the harm that the policies will bring to the nation and our children.

  79. PB Says:

    Dollars and cents are very important for a business as you mentioned adiemuso. There are always forms of cutting down these dollars and cents, be it from less wastage of resources, or streamlining of processes, the methods of controlling dollars and cents exist. The wrong method of doing this is using the hiring and firing process to manipulate short range profitability of a company. There are many who have done so, ending up having to pay more for people to return to their original position or even worse, having to hire someone with less knowledge.

    MNCs are not the only companies hiring. As much prestige there is tagged to an MNC, how many people well off do you know that are not complaining about an MNC. Singapore ranges as a top business destination in the World. No one doubts that. As mentioned before, I reiterate one way we can try to improve our current policy.

    What I believe in is applying a “Social Tax” to expats. The form is to inform that the person coming to the country is effectively taking over the position of a citizen who can or may be qualified for the same position. Hence, there is a social effect of having the expat in Singapore. This can be a fair method of applying a higher social control of who is allowed to enter Singapore as well, allowing for greater scrutiny of expatriate inflows. Here we can control the range of expats that are beneficial to the country. As well, the “Social Tax” can serve as a cushion for those retrenched.

    All in all, when we look at the crisis that we are emerging from, the question begets that difficult times call for difficult measures.

  80. question Says:

    PB, what were the difficult measures? the relentless import of foreigners started way before the crisis.

  81. dogg Says:


    i felt that i shd be a little compassionate to the plight of many singaporeans. but u r rite. i should not be. just bcus u r having a bad time now, u have taken this tone. so i wont respect u or singaporeans anymore. hope that makes u happy. if u insult u , u dont like it. if i take a step back and act decent, u act surprized. BYE

  82. middleclass Says:

    dogg: there is no such thing as a compassionate bigot.
    Bigots are mostly dumb but you are right down there on the stupid pole.
    Now you are turning into a hypocrite and accusing Boiling Point of despising people of other race.
    Obviously you failed reading comprehension but to be fair I went back and read his post a few times.
    Guess what – BP did not mentioned anything about blaming Indians or any foreigners.
    He was stating an observation that is hardly false and pointing at the policy makers.
    It’s the same that if I say that I noticed nowadays a lot of Tagalog being spoken in my office lifts and Chinese being spoken in the services lines that does not mean that I despise the Filipino or Chinese foreigners.
    Just stating the facts.
    Also when i say that the duty of the elected Singapore govt is to take of it’s citizens first does not mean that I am xenophobic or advocating persecution of foreigners.
    Just stating the facts.
    Lastly when I say that you are a flip flopping, hypocritical, dumb bigot it’s not an insult.
    Just stating the facts.

  83. Dogg Says:

    U r rite. and i am glad that better educated filipinos n chinese are getting jobs which singaporeans cannot do. U can keep whining and live in ur pseudo world where u think how Objective, Reasonable, Fair and Intelligent u are. Ya BP is stating the fact but u can see the underlying tone which clearly states that he would rather not want to see 80% indians in his condo. How many Racists ever admit they are Racists. BP is one of them. Clearly u sympathize with him since he is one of u. Common cause unites u people.
    Elderly in singapore are not productive. Thats a fact too. So, screw them, is it ?? U need tact even if u r stating the fact.

  84. middleclass Says:

    admin : i was busy in morning and wanted to respond to the racist and seditious remarks that the bigoted Dogg made.
    But i realised that it had been altered and removed.
    Frankly i find that very disturbing and dishonest that you could do this.
    That means anything that I write can also be changed and altered to your whim?
    This is the last post I will make here and the last visit I will have to your site.
    Good bye.

  85. dogg Says:

    comeon, i apologize if it sounded bad. i did not mean that. i will refrain from any more posting here. i am Sorry.

  86. PB Says:

    question – Was a little unclear. I meant that difficult measures have to be taken as we emerge from this crisis.

  87. admin Says:

    Dear middleclass, I seldom edit the comments posted in this site (spams are always deleted in whole). I edited Dogg’s comment (#83) and subsequently the quote in your comment (#84) because I find that statement really offensive. I did not edit anything else.

  88. Kevin Says:

    Some belated comments.

    Generally, I am aligned adiemuso’s comments except for this one.
    #47: I don’t think Singapore salaries are peanuts compared to salaries of similar economy. It may be true that fresh graduates in Singapore earn significantly lesser than the fresh graduates of other supposedly equal economies, but peanuts convey a different meaning.

    Generally, I find the arguments that foreigners come in to depress local wages a little weak. Consider a general-level opening. If there are sufficient foreigners to depress the wage, there will eventually be incentives for the business to locate near to where the foreigners are (i.e., outside Singapore). We can cite a lot of intangible and other cost advantages associated with Singapore but we all know labour cost is the most significant factor for knowledge economies and Singapore is never going to be the main market for most businesses (except for finance).

    I may be a little myopic in my global perspectives having only worked in companies listed on NYSE but I do read the economist from time to time. In that scheme of things, operating costs are mainly controlled by the number of people and their wages, and hence hiring-firing is nearly always a preferred solution, despite what they might say. I have heard that Japan business strategy is different as well as those private unlisted companies who do not need to bow to the shareholders’ pressure of being profitable quarter after quarter.

  89. relocate? Says:

    > there will eventually be incentives for the business to locate near to where the foreigners are

    singapore also offers other benefits like good infrastructure, stable political system (despite all the kinks you know what i mean), extremely pro-business government, and other conveniences and efficiencies in every aspect of doing business.

    so it’s not so easy to just relocate the business to where the cheap foreigners are – the other countries may not offer those non-wage benefits that singapore offers. the last thing you want is to spend money relocating and then find yourself having to write off the investment (recent example: google shutting its search services in China).

  90. nervous Says:


    Perhaps you could also do an article on the quality of non-citizens that we are getting, using Dogg as an example. That would bring out some transparency.

    It seems the media is only interested in positioning the postive qualities of non-citizens. I’m kind of nervous with all the non-citizens being discontent and offensive about citizens in my own country.

  91. steady Says:

    don’t be nervous. tell your family and friends about the government’s foreign thrash policy and the lousy media. tell them to vote for the opposition in the next election to voice their discontent, REGARDLESS of the quality of the opposition. this will give a wake up call.

  92. Kevin Says:

    If you go to China, you will notice though bad habits like spitting on the sidewalk may still irk some people, its infrastructure and customer-facing services are very efficient. With the market and shareholder’s pressure to have something tangible to say about China during investors’ meeting, and most importantly, being the world’s biggest market, there is really no good reason to locate anywhere else. We lose to China not on cost, but just on market size alone.

    India is a slightly different case with a different sets of problems but here, we lose entirely on the scale of operations.

    Let me switch gear and go more personal. I worked in a managerial job that have a very wide pay range, maybe being paid more like around the average. I can see why smaller or more adventurous companies will see no need to hire someone like me simply because of cost, despite the additional experience I can bring to the table. At the same time, I could be lucky and get a good pay increment because some of my niche experience that fills the need of the managerial position that they are looking for.

    If you go back to policies and planning, generally the government is doing the right thing, e.g., prioritization on niches, productivity, stimulating innovation, immigrant policies. Sure, at the detailed level, there is always room for tuning, adjustments and improvements, especially when the policy is adapted from foreign best practices.

    Hence, I think, if there are suggestions, I would be looking at more detailed level suggestion and not broad strokes, like improve work-life balance to increase local population. The problem with the latter is that it assumes work-life balance is the critical factor to having kids and it takes very long to see if it works.

  93. Kevin Says:

    Having led initiatives to establish global governance framework within a company, we always appear too slow for our constituents to set up rules which seem natural. Having been on this side, I can share that rule-setting is hard. It needs to satisfy most constituents, improve the top and/or bottom-line and not make too many other aspects worst off. And you cannot keep changing the rules, because after a while, it gives an impression that you do not know what you are doing and will lose people’s trust.

    Anyway, since I am not being paid “obscene” salary, here is one detailed level suggestion. I think Singapore does have a big market in financial services. This is one area where our nearest genuine competitor in Hong Kong is too close to China policies makers for some people’s comfort. We also have good hinterland market from Malaysia’s spillover Islamic banking. Not to mention the political stability compared against the surrounding faster developing countries, who need a place to park their money.

    Hence, we can choose to have tighter foreign talent policy in the financial services sector. For example, we can strive for a better ratio of local (pink IC) to foreigner in the banking operations, and have tertiary education to contribute more directly to the staffing of these jobs. The escalating cost is not such a big risk here, because there is really little other choice and we can aim to be close enough but higher than Hong Kong and at near parity to other financial centers like London, New York and Switzerland (Geneva?).

    So, what are some of the downsides? First, financial services is already perceived as a highly paid sector so increasing this group of people’s wage will not be welcomed by people not in the group. So, implementation is going to be really hard at the ground level. Second, even if we do succeed, we would most likely end up having too large of our bet in financial services. If there is a financial meltdown, it will be even more severe for the economy than it already was recently.

    A different way to think about implementation is that we already have a large number of financial jobs available, and over-time, we expect that the local numbers to eventually catch up relatively to that of foreign talents (maybe, when these folks become citizens! ha!). If this is true, we are better off letting social evolution takes care of itself rather than through manual intervention. Laissez-faire often appears to work better for economy, because manual intervention is nearly always late and has a relatively long lag before we can see the results.

  94. Amused Says:

    To the local educated bumpkin who said that we should be proud that “Singapore has achieved in 40 years what Switzerland took 100 years to achieve”, like so many other NUS/NTU-educated frogs in the well, you haven’t stepped onto Switzerland or out of Singapore for more than 2 weeks for that matter.

    Singapore has certainly NOT achieved even 10% of what Switzerland has. Switzerland despite its relatively smaller size to its neighbours, is resistant from the effects of globalisation and cheaper emerging economies taking over low-skill industries unlike Singapore.

    While SIngapore is desperately still playing catch up by trying to develop some high skill economies like biotech, life sciences and green technology (and failing and trailing compared to first world countries), Switzerland is an unimpenetrable fortress of not only high-skill, but super niche and elite-skill domains firmly entrenched and tied to its brand-name from premium mechanical watch-making, upscale chocolates to super high-end banking.

    You can’t even recognise this because you’ve been stuck here all your life, in this little insular island. The biggest investment any parent can make for his child is to send his children overseas so he does not become another toad here.

  95. Amused Says:

    The Swiss are also famous for its hospitality higher education of learning.The list goes on.

  96. PB Says:

    Amused – I would really like to know how you managed to come up with all of that through what I said.

    Have you even lived in Switzerland?

  97. compare uk elections Says:

    too many immigrants?

    watch pm gordon brown debate 2 excellent opposition front runners on the best ways to manage the issue of immigration.


    note that david cameron complained “it’s too much” to have 2million net immigrants across a DECADE. (population of uk is 60million).

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  99. We Are Wealthier Than Switzerland | Support Site for The Unemployed Says:

    [...] of non-Singaporean families (don’t get me started on why our wealth and income statistics always lumped PRs and citizens together). Let me just quote from an old Salary.sg article on Singapore’s typical millionaire: An [...]

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  104. toc reader Says:

    Leong Sze Hiang used a different technique and came to an eerily close estimate (45%).

    “Working backwards from the broken-down unemployment rate now available, I estimate the percentage of non-Singaporean workers to be about 45 per cent (1,757,692 Singaporeans – 2.6 per cent unemployment, 342,371 PRs – 2.5 per cent residents’ unemployment, and 1,191,200 foreigners).”


  105. Retrenchments likely to rise as economy slows down: Tharman - www.hardwarezone.com.sg Says:

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  106. cher Says:


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