07 September 2015

Immigration Fairy Tales

Population and immigration is one of the hot topics during GE 2015, as it was during GE 2011. Here is a critique of the Government's views.


We were once immigrants and Singapore continues to be an immigrant society. The spirit of openness and diversity is an integral part of our identity. If not for the major migratory shifts in our earlier years, Singapore would not be what it is today. Our being an open society then helped shape the Singaporean core, ethos and values that make our country what it is today.

That we were once immigrants is irrelevant today. Firstly, we were a colony previously. Secondly, our population density is very high now.

Whose view is it that Singapore continues to be an immigrant society — the Government's?

If business opportunities and economic growth come by, we should grab them by importing manpower. We don't know when slow growth or recession may occur.

When growth slows after companies have imported foreigners to chase business opportunities, there is no assurance that the people to be retrenched first will be the foreigners.

There is insufficient surplus capacity in our infrastructure to cater for a sudden and sharp rise in immigration.

Foreigners are here to serve Singapore's interests.

This may be true in the macroeconomic sense, unless they occupy positions that Singaporeans can fill.

Foreigners are needed because there are not enough qualified residents.

In the global marketplace, if we don't allow talented foreigners to work here, they will work elsewhere and compete against us.

This may be true in some cases and for a limited period of time. Otherwise, it means that there is something amiss with our education system and/or with the employers who refuse to train our citizens.

Some companies are moving out of Singapore because they don't have enough manpower. When this happens, it affects not just their employees but also other companies serving them.

Unfortunately, some labour intensive, low value-added companies may not have a future in Singapore and it may be better for them to relocate.

Despite the labour crunch, the number of business entities formed is healthy.


If we don't allow foreigners to come in, who will construct our buildings, keep our country clean or look after our children and aged parents?

This over-used extreme-case argument is silly. Our concern is about competition for jobs that most of us want and are qualified for, not the jobs that most of us don't want.

Foreign students do not deny us of places in the local universities because all citizens who qualify will be admitted.

Class sizes at the local universities are more or less fixed, and they determine how many students are admitted to any particular course of studies. If the demand for any particular course of studies exceeds the supply (which includes foreign students), the cut-off standard will be raised.

Just because someone is given a place in one of the local universities does not mean that it is in a preferred course of studies.

Is it right to sponsor foreign students while citizen students are not similarly sponsored? A citizen who is forced to study overseas may not return when he completes his studies.

Unemployment rate
In an earlier article [What The Unemployment Rate Means], I wrote about how difficult it is for a person aged 15 years and above to be considered to be unemployed by the Ministry of Manpower.

A person is employed if he has worked at least one paid hour (this is not a typo) during the week preceding the week that MOM conducts its quarterly manpower survey.

A person is not considered to be in the labour force if during the week preceding the week that MOM conducts its quarterly manpower survey:
▪ He did not work at least one paid hour;
▪ He is neither willing nor able to work; and
▪ He did not actively look for a job.

All other persons are considered to be unemployed.

Unemployment statistics for PMETs, for example, tell us how many PMETs satisfy MOM's definition, not our common understanding of what being unemployed means. A PMET who loses his job is not considered to be unemployed if in the week before MOM's survey:
▪ He worked at least one paid hour as a PMET; or
▪ He worked at least one paid hour as a non-PMET (i.e., he is no longer a PMET); or
▪ He did not actively look for a job.

1 comment:

  1. /// If business opportunities and economic growth come by, we should grab them by importing manpower. ///

    This is the biggest propagated by them. It was not opportunistic to catch the wind. The plan to increase the population was already set in concrete in the 1991 grand plan "Living the next lap."

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