While in hospital for five days, I realized the existence of a huge pool of foreign talents present in our health industry. Our local press have not been kind towards foreign workers raising an income in Singapore. Many alternative local blogs have mercilessly criticized their overwhelming presence here. Most of the naysayers accused them of creating a huge opportunity cost for Singaporean workers - our jobs are snatched away by them due to lower labour costs. Others blame that they may erode our social fabric - use of the English language (which is important in a multi-racial community) seems to be undermined, etc.
Singaporeans need to wake up and start recognizing the efforts and hard work of our foreign workers. I was admitted in Changi General Hospital on Chinese New Year eve. As expected and true enough, they were not many local nurses on duty. They were all replaced by Philippines nurses. Believe it or not, I was taken care of by almost five different Philippines nurses on duty during their various shifts. They were really nice and soft-spoken. Although they have a slightly odd accent (they pronounced 'back' as 'bark'), they were really efficient and caring.
I do comprehend that in the construction industry, almost 80% of the workers are non-Singaporeans. Most of them come from Thailand, China and Bangladesh. In fact, fifty thousand new foreign workers are expected over the next few years to join the local job market as new major construction projects are initiated. The importation of the huge amount of foreign labour is crucial so as to keep costs low and stay competitive. In short, they help keep the industry and economy going.
So should we be worried that they are 'stealing' our jobs? No, not at all. I believe the government is trying to do its best to promote a business-friendly reputation for the country. And to do so the government needs to consistently keep costs low so as to attract foreign direct investments (a bit of Economics here). Singapore is an small yet open economy which needs to step up its level of competitiveness in order to survive in the global market.
One of variable costs that companies look forward to cut during a bad turn in the economy is none other than labour costs. Companies here often seek an easy way out to the problem by employing foreign workers. For example, China workers are definitely way cheaper than Singaporean workers. Therefore, instead of wasting our time lamenting about the influx of foreign workers in Singapore, why not enroll yourself in a skill development workshop to double your productivity level?
I am not going to dwell on the skills development part. Instead, lets move on to another common issue raised by many Singaporeans, that is if foreign talents are disintegrating our social fabric. The first problem highlighted is regarding the language issue. Foreign workers from China are often put into the spotlight when it comes to this issue. And I have to agree with the critics. I am rather amazed that the service industry actually has the guts to employ them despite the fact that they know most of them are not proficient in their use of English language. There should be a English literacy test for foreign workers hoping for a place in the service industry. For goodness sake, you are dealing with Malay, Indian, Eurasian and possibly English-speaking Chinese Singaporean customers here!
Foreign Artistic Talent Scheme
This Scheme is jointly administered by the Singapore Immigration and the National Arts Council (NAC). This scheme aims to assist foreign artistic talents in art, photography, dance, music, theatre, literature and film to apply for Singapore Permanent Resident Status.
The next more worrying problem is the xenophobic mindset that some Singaporeans carry. The best example to explain the trend is the recent outburst by more than six hundred residents of Serangoon Gardens over a construction of a dormitory for foreign workers in their neighbourhood. The complaints fell to deaf ears and the proposal was granted at the end of the day. Singaporeans need to learn to live with foreign workers or risk living under constant distrust and discomfort with them. Quit imagining that foreign workers here are from a lower strata in the society and start thinking of the wonders we get to enjoy if we start acknowledging each other.
Singapore as an emerging economy combating with a dwindling population dilemma needs foreign workers for the country's future progress. In the health industry, the country is still struggling to meet the demands of the increasingly ageing population. It is no wonder I see Philippines nurses taking care of the patients most of the time. I had a pleasant stay there.