At an interview with Bloomberg, Singapore’s Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat confirmed that the government will remain reliant on cheap foreign degree holders to replace Singaporeans. The move is expected to depress salaries for professionals, managers, engineers and technicians (PMETs), and worsen employment opportunities for Singaporean graduates and the middle class.
The GDP-obsessed minister said that he will however continue to reduce the intake of essential low income workers like construction workers and cleaners. The S$1.1 million-a-year PAP Minister said the shortage of low income workers will “pressure” businesses to raise productivity:
“We cannot continue to rely on sort of low-cost foreign workers, because we need to move towards productivity- and innovation-driven growth. When foreign labour was too freely available in the past, it reduced the pressure and incentive for companies to take productivity upgrading seriously. We begin to see, for instance, a far greater interest now in looking at automation, mechanisation and ways and means of raising productivity.”
Minister Heng Swee Keat however played dumb when queried about the productivity of PMET jobs being affected based off his logic. A fact check with official productivity statistics revealed that the professional industries like Information and Technology, where most foreign degree holders from India are employed, registered one of the lowest productivity growth in Singapore industries. Productivity in Information and Technology sector declined 4.2% in the three years from 2015 to 2017, whereas productivity growth for the low income accommodation and food service sector declined only 1.8% over the same period.
Singapore graduates and young adults are the hardest-hit due to the influx of cheap foreign degree holders. Earlier in June, the latest employment statistics revealed that unemployment rate has hit 5.6% for Singaporeans under the age of 30. Unemployment rate for Singapore fresh graduates are at the worst, at 21.6%.