Friday, August 06, 2010

Why Do We Care About Mr Ng's PRC Workers when Our Elderly Struggle to Survive?

TOC has recently run a piece on Aug 5 on Singapore's foreign worker policy "MOM policy change creating problems for employers". In the piece, TOC features an interview of a business owner, Mr Ng, who describes how he is facing problems renewing the work permits for 2 of his PRC workers. The MOM recently shifted its policy stance to tighten its foreign worker quota.
“With the pick-up [in the economy], unless they quickly revise this policy, a lot of employers will face the same problem that I’m facing now,” he said. Indeed, several other employers and business owners have told TOC they too face the same problems.
Here are a few important points from the interview of Mr Ng
  • Mr Ng has 29 total staff, of which 2 of them who are PRCs face non-renewal of work permit
  • Mr Ng claims that if MOM does not renew the PRC workers' permits he will have "a lot of problems recruiting locals ... to fill their gap", and says that that no Singaporeans want to work in a restaurant
  • Mr Ng pays the PRC workers around $800-$1000 a month
On March 29, TOC also published a piece by Gilbert Goh, titled "Employers still discriminating against older workers". Mr Goh pointed out the following:
"A weekend visit to Han’s restaurant at Harbourfront shocked me as the four staff working there were all Filipinos. From the person that took my order to the cashier and chefs, they were all foreigners happily going about their jobs. The only thing that stood them out from the former Han’s staff that I had seen previously, was the age difference. All of them appeared to be in their twenties. I found myself paying for my order grudgingly.
Are mature Singaporeans not able to fill such positions even if they were much older and were a little slower? Must employers continue to fill in service positions with foreigners while claiming that locals refuse to work longer hours for miserable pay? Are all the employers’ complaints valid? I am sure that for every Singaporean’s refusal to work at such service jobs, there should be another who do not mind such work. This is especially so in this time of economic downturn. Let us not generalise and condemn the working attitude of Singaporeans just because of a few black sheep."

Unfortunately for Mr Ng (and Andrew Loh and Leong Sze Hian), I am afraid that I have to side with Gilbert Goh on this issue. Let's put Mr Ng's problems in perspective.
  1. Mr Ng has a workforce of 29 people. Only 2 out of these 29 people are going to face permit renewal problems. Is Mr Ng claiming that his restaurant will have to shut down with 27 workers, or 93% of his original workforce? If the loss of 2 workers out of the 29, of which he is only paying $800-1000 each, is going to have such a massive impact on his business, then I seriously think Mr Ng is a lousy business manager and has some bucking up to do.
  2. Mr Ng claims that no Singaporeans want to work in a restaurant. Is this really the truth? Already we have elderly in Singapore who have to scrap together a living by collecting cardboard boxes & empty drink cans from the streets, or selling tissue paper in the hawker centres. Or they are earning a measly $600 a month as cleaners at the hawker centres. I am sure these workers would eagerly jump at a chance to earn $800-$1000 a month at Mr Ng's air-conditioned Chinese restaurant, which has much better working conditions than a job that involves picking up cardboard boxes!!
  3. Let's consider the problems created by the foreign worker PRCs. 
    • they depress wages for Singaporeans who work in the similar industries
    • they take up living space in already crowded Singapore, contributing to property price inflation that is making housing unaffordable for Singaporeans
    • they contribute to the discrimination of the elderly in Singapore, who now have to work to their dying day
If I might dare say, Mr Ng is really complaining about his loss of his PRC workers because they are young, cheap, and keep his business costs down. Mr Ng wants workers who will be well behaved, who are easily replaceable (by other PRCs), and who are not old. Mr Ng's mentality is precisely the kind that leads to the discrimination of elderly workers in Singapore, and that results in the gross imbalance in the share of GDP going to workers. If Mr Ng wants to find replacements for his PRCs, then I suggest he go and talk to Mr Gilbert Goh, who I am sure can easily find replacement Singaporean workers for him!!! Indeed, I am quite surprised Mr Andrew Loh didn't mention Gilbert's contact to Mr Ng.

Which one do we want, Singaporeans? Do we want to allow Mr Ng to be able to squeeze out profits from his business by using cheap PRC workers, or do we want improve the livelihoods and dignity of our elderly Singaporeans, who were the backbone of our economic progress, and who are struggling to survive despite having made so many sacrifices for Singapore!!??

At the end of the day, the problems of the PRC workers belong to the Government of China. The problems of the filipino workers belong to the Government of Philippines. The Singapore Government must take care first and foremost of the people of Singapore.

That is why I feel that the recalibration of foreign worker quota system is a step in the right direction for this country, and that Mr Ng should deal with his hiring problems like a man, rather than whining about what is clearly a pro-Singaporean government policy.


Anonymous said...

These days, we have foreign workers in every pocket of the economy. Try figuring out why we should allow a foreigner to be a local housing agent? Is there a skill void to be filled there? No. There appears to be a big purposeful shift in the make up of our population in the past years, facilitated no less by MOM

Anonymous said...

Just go check out some of the more popular housing websites in Singapore. You'll easily find PRCs working here as property agents. Why? We have a ton of housing agents. Housing agents are sales people and they pretty much work for their own gains. They do not add anything extra or special to the economy.

Anonymous said...

to solve the elderly problem, it is best to let the policy makers experience first hand the impact.
I suggest all government ministries employ at least half of their staff above the retirement age. Let them weigh the pros and cons, what is acceptable, what is not, who needs help, who does not, and more importantly, eliminate all the government lip service BS.