Citizens A Minority In MNCs?


A friend of mine works in an MNC. He commented recently that Singapore citizens are a rare breed at his workplace. In his extended team of about 30, there are Indians, British, Asian Americans and Malaysian Chinese, but only 2 Singaporeans. And one of the 2 is a contract worker!

This is not only limited to his extended team. Throughout the office, spanning several floors in the building, he said it’s hard to find more than a handful Singaporeans in middle to senior positions. However, in sales and lower-end operations, and especially in technical support, there are more citizens.

If people are interested to know whether MNCs are better paymasters than GLCs, it’s also logical for them to ask how many citizens are employed by MNCs in Singapore and in what positions. Unfortunately I can’t find any figures.

In forums, a forummer mentioned that there’s a quota limiting the ratio of foreigners vs citizens, but the quota “clubs” PRs and Singaporeans together. He is only partly correct.

Quotas are only applicable to work permits and ‘S’ pass foreign workers. See difference between foreign workers and foreign talent and MOM webpage on foreign worker quotas.

On the other hand, foreigners earning more than $2,500 hold employment passes. They are classified as “professionals” (as opposed to “skilled workers”). These foreign professionals are not subject to any quota.

This MOM reply to a query in ST says it all (boldface mine):

“Apart from the S-Pass, companies can also bring in foreign professionals, managers and executives on employment passes to meet their staffing needs. There is no quota for Employment Pass holders. However the applicant must be paid a basic monthly salary of at least $2,500 and have acceptable qualifications.”

There is no quota. If you run a company and pay more than $2,500 to each employee, you can have 100% foreigners in your company.

Still, the forummer is correct regarding the lumping of PRs and citizens. For skilled foreign workers, MOM enforces a certain quota. However, as stated in this MOM page (boldface mine):

” ‘Local workforce’ refers to those full-time employees (Singapore citizens or permanent residents).”

So, technically, any company in Singapore can hire zero Singapore citizen and have foreigners as all its employees.


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  1. then the bigger question is whether globalisation brings about more benefits than warts. or is it the classic case of the rich getting richer while the poor continues to struggle in worse conditions?

    will we become maids in our own countries?

  2. this is sad: I strongly believe that the highly intelligent and experienced people who advice the government know what they are doing ..

    A case in a similar example: Take Philippines: while there is enough whine and moaning about Gloria’s presidency, everybody from World Bank to any economist worth his two cents have nothing but praise for her keeping the economy moving and growing, despite all the regional economic slumps .. After all, while the common man on the street may not feel the effect, it has to be admitted that if there was somebody else in charge, ADB predicted the economy would have overtaken Zimbabwe ..

    As to becoming maids in our own country ? I wouldn’t even go there, as Singapore has been going through a phase, in my own eyes. So from a time of cheap labour, things have turned around, and I see more and more establishments recruiting local labour .. sometimes I do feel places like Macdonalds and such must have a lower quota for foreigners, as most students find these as their only source of income, and this seem to have vanished with a lot of foreign workers, and then again, the tide seem to be changing.

    I also know that MOM is tightening the little loophole they had to bring in cheap service crew – S Pass

    Only time will tell mate, only time will tell.

    PS: I wonder if anybody even expected Singapore to be on the verge of overtaking Macau due to the IRs ? Last reports say Sands is unexpectedly declaring Singapore to be their number 1 revenue generating Casino ..

  3. I love my country on

    i work in a company of 40 staff (MNC too)

    Only 20 are true born citizens (another 2 converted recently no need to do NS).

    As to how we ended up with a ratio of about half Singaporeans and half foreigners, I really have no clues.

    Tot MOM or MFA or Immigration (whoever is supposed to be in charge) should only allow 25% foreigners?

  4. Pingback: 45% Expats Make More Than $265k | - Your Salary in Singapore

  5. my firm has got quite a number of fresh graduates foreigners who are on employment pass becos they are given good starting salaries of 2500 and above. Instead of hiring and giving these jobs with great prospects and training opportunities to locals, the firm is giving out these well paying great prospect jobs to foreigners. The govt policy of giving out employment pass simply based on someone earning 2500 and above should be changed. How can a regular foreign fresh graduate be considered as a “talent” and be let in to take away the job opportunity of our local graduates? There are certainly many local accounting graduates (be it local uni (SMU, NTU etc), private uni (SIM etc) or ACCA graduates) that can take up these jobs, there is no need for the firm to hire those young foreign fresh graduates! The firm simply wants to do so. So govt should decide whether the firm need or really just want the employment pass to hire the foreign “talent”.

  6. xx: a quick reply: A foreign talent may not have recognised qualification, but can be a smooth talker, deal closer – which has a lot of value ..

    Do you think the top bankers and stock brokers are highly qualified to earn the mega bucks ??? 😀 😀

  7. Foreign talents are important to Singapore success, they breed new borns to Singapore and defintely make more than locals, which helps to contribute to the Singapore economy. Singaporeans should should wailing and grow up. Indians, Chinese, Filipinos are coming by the truck loads and you better wake up!

  8. Mr Humble: A tongue in cheek comments : if you knows what that mean : seriously which country want to go and experience all the best of Singapore ??

    Ever hear that despite all is well, not everything is green on other side of river ?

  9. seriously Singaporeans whine and have many complains… I would pay more to NOT attend to all these…

  10. A thought on why there’s a lot of foreigners in MNC especially after I moved to HK office for our company. Typically % of employees in a company tend to follow the countries from where most sales comes from. And guess where the biggest sales comes from: coutnries with largest people.In that context, it’s realistic to expect PRC, Indians, Vietnamese, Idnonesians to be dominant in any MNC. THe question then rises on where does Singapore fit in with just about 1% fo Asean population. If I compare on this parameter, typically we singaproeans in any MNC are close to 10% if not more. I guess the role of singapore is “economic benefits” from hosting the MNCs and ripple effect of the economy. We can choose to opt out of hosting the MNCs but then our own local economy is too small. So rather than hunting for jobs in these MNCs, we should focus on capturing the “ripple” ie; food, rental and other services.Infact, as we do this, we ourselves can expand to these countries.What do u think?

  11. good analysis. then the government should make it clear that we are hosting MNCs _not_ to create jobs for singaporeans directly – in the sense that these MNCs will hire many more singaporeans. <- not true.

    instead, the government should set the expectation right at the outset – that these MNCs will have ripple effect on the economy and create ancillary jobs like waiters, cashiers, cleaners, etc — wait! aren't these ancillary jobs also taken up by foreigners?

    or, are all singaporeans landlords renting out their bungalows and condos?

    i'm sure i'm missing out something here.

  12. I agree partly a)Hosting to create new jobs some of which will come to us anyway but not a majority, but either way we will get beyond our fair share based on population. b)capture the ancillary effect directly benefitting the people eg: Any non-tech bsuiness must be majority singaporean owned eg construction/maintenance/cleaning/non-technology /retail/travel/transport business must have atleast 51% owned by a singaporean even if the promoter is a foreigner. c)Implement National Particiaption scheme eg: MNCs when they give out cleaning/IT contracts/seurity/catering contract etc need to ensure majority or pre-determined % are given to Singaporean owned business d) Start a Graduate Explosion scheme – we need to move to atleast 70% of workforce being graduates. Partner MNCs in this scheme so that our graduates have experience outside the country as well. Subsidise grad education.

    THis is similar to preferedd diversity schemes that run in US which the same MNCs adhere to.

  13. Many average ordinary citizens do not reap the benefits of attracting the MNCs here. You don’t see the postings on all these websites because they are not the savy internet generation. Many have been displaced by foreigners and are facing very hard times. Some are starting to wise up and realise that since the Gov’t doesn’t seem to be on their side and definitely the MNCs and even local companies seem to prefer recruiting foreigners, then the solution is to group together and take matters into their own hands and make it very very uncomfortable for foreigners to want to come here and work. Perhaps it is time a Singapore Nationalist Party to take root. You think it wont happen, well I tell you the rice in the bowl is getting lesser and lesser and now down to a few spoons only. Real anger is growing, you can see the frustration on people’s faces coupled with the growing dissatisfaction with the alien (to us) behaviour of foreigners. You only need a spark and rational thinking goes out the door and BOOM! All bets are off then for the economy in the future.

  14. disgruntled local on

    I’m a Singaporean working in an MNC with a strength of about 500 staff. I can say only about 25% of the total workforce are Singaporeans and of this 25%, most are holding bottom end support and clerical jobs. Ever since our MD from India took over about 4yrs ago, the number of Western foreigners have dwindled and the number of Indians have multiplied drastically. Only a few Singaporeans hold managerial and senior management positions before and these few still remain. Most of the Angmos have been booted out to be replaced by Indians and many newly created VPs and Snr Director positions were created so more Indians can come in. Moreover, more and more foreigners, many of them Indians, are filling out the middle level jobs as well. Jobs that were once considered ‘Singaporean’s’ like sales, research analyst and entry level executives are now also being filled up by foreigners every time there’s a new hire. It makes one ask the question, can no singaporean do that job that they must hire another foreigner? I see throngs of talented Singaporeans (recognising them from being in the industry long enough) come interview for these jobs but it always seem that someone from another country will be deemed better and be hired from overseas. After getting to know these new;y hired foreigners, we find that many of them have only 1 or 2 years of experience but they come in here to take on managerial or supervisory positions drawing pretty high salaries. The middle level Singaporeans, the graduates in the their 30s with more then 10yrs of experience, are basically stuck where they are as it’s quite apparent that no matter what kind of credentials and track record you have, you are never gonna move up. We just have to suck it up and report to these foreigners in their 20s. With annual increments pegged at a mere 3plus percent for a good performance, we can only depend on these promotions to help cope with the increasing inflation rate but unfortunately that’s never gonna happen. Is this because of Singaporean’s inability to outshine their foreign counterparts or is it a case of ‘if you bring one foreigner in, he’s gonna bring in five more of his friends and they in turn bring 5 more each’? I would say from what I see in my company its a bit of both. The ‘priviledge’ few locals who get to move higher up sadly do not account for themselves very well. Many of them do not articulate well and quite frankly, speak rather poor English. They also do not ‘represent’ the locals well by being quite incompetent in their managerial duties, tending to look at the hindsight rather than focusing on future plans. Compare the ability of the local managers to the foreign ones and the difference is night and day. Is this a product of our culture/education system that produced so many Singaporeans who make good workers and not thinkers/leaders? I’m fustrated that these foreigners are taking up our jobs and opportunities and I feel the government did screw up big time by letting the flood gates open, but I also don’t blame these foreign employers for having the mindset that most of us Singaporeans are not up to par, for the majority of us singaporeans truly do not carry ourselves well enough in this multinational office culture. Unfortunately for those Singaporeans who do speak well and have the ability, you get labelled together with the ‘typical Singaporeans’.

  15. Disgruntled local:

    Thinking aloud .. could it be that the MNC invested a lot of Money in Singapore (NOT SINGAPORE MONEY, I MEAN FOREIGN INVESTMENT) and part of their investment requirement is to employ people they believe will deliver + their own top management ? As it happens in Japanese / Americans / Some German companies, they want their own top management .. as part of their controls, after all the money came from their pocket ..

    So ?? Yah, I know, it is not funny to say YES to a youngster, but the youngster has one up – his own country / govt invested and made him get his job

    Now why not go to the GLCs and see how many foreigners are there ? Not many and quite often, a lot of GLCs only recruit Singaporeans .. I don’t see foreigners whining about it ..

    Singapore is at the crossroads of the world, and yes, I also know a company from an Asian country, where, except HR and Admin, all are from that country, simply because the company is servicing clients from their motherland, and part of their incentive to locate to Singapore had been that they are allowed bigger quota to employ their own people.

    So which do you prefer ? That such companies be not allowed to invest in Singapore, pay taxes, help the economy, add value in the support industries, or just be told “EMPLOY LOCALS OR YOU DON”T COME HERE .. ”

    Life yeah ??

  16. From experience working with over 50 nationalities and having seen quite a number of CVs, what some of you mentioned is true –
    1. in the past there were more Sgporeans in MNCs
    2. there were few PRs, mostly only WP holders
    3. there was a time MNCs were even encouraged to hire locals to replace the expat heads in the 1990s.

    All these changed when the new policies for immigration came about in the last few years. Of course, 14 days is too short a period. Even Aust, US has longer time frames. So this is just a scam act. It also doen’t differentiate if it is real skills needed. Also, MOM try to use different currencies to compare. They think we are dumb. Gov has been cutting essentials at the low end whilst not doing anything at the directly competing middle end and high end. They are undermining Sgporeans.

    Glib talkers are Indies, we all know that. Don’t get conned by their pretence of knowing when in reality they don’t. Their technique is to ask you first for your story. That’s how they learn bits here and there. Many of them migrated through some back door to US, UK, etc. Likely posted overseas by some US or Brit companies who doesn’t know what is happening. Same situation like you see in Microsoft now, got conned. They then fake the pay and bring in their own villagers.

    Sometimes, foreign bosses may get misled by other foreigners. Backstabbing happens. So do talk to your bosses. Treat them as your friend. Do not be afraid or keep your distance just because they are your superior. They welcome you to talk to them. They like you to be open.

    Talking about pay, yes, Sgporeans are more expensive due to the CPF. In fact, it can be between 20%-40% more expensive than a PR. A PR need not contribute CPF for the first 3 years and will revert to zero rate if he changes job.

  17. In case you are unaware, most of the local listed firms are controlled by Temsek. All these using your CPF.
    During the industrialisation phase, Sgp has always created jobs for our neighbours. So I guess they are still trying to, very hard. So much so that most of those grads first work in Sgpore. All these are created using your CPF.

  18. paidmost … nice yarn to stoke up anti PR emotions

    most MNCs insist new PR take full contribution or leave … as a condition to sign on the PR form

    and there is revert it zero when change job for PR contribution ..

    and PR cannot choose to change or reduce contribution rates.

    if you know something that I don’t know in the reset to zero business quote which page of CPF shows it ….

    get your facts correct than stoking irrelevant anger

    in fact a lot of employers, especially SMEs who shun citizens also shun PRs for the same reason .. CPF … as they aren’t cheaper ..

    jeez., what are you smoking?

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