Friday, February 24, 2012

Nonsensical Forum Letter on Cheap Foreign Labour

A letter by a certain Ng Ya Ken was published on the TODAYonline Voices section. It contains several nonsensical and idiotic statements that I would wish to debunk. Note: I have no affiliation with SPP and have no vested interest in defending the SPP.
Cheap foreign labour: Who's responsible?
Letter from Ng Ya Ken 04:46 AM Feb 22, 2012
THE Singapore People's Party's chairman, Mrs Lina Chiam, thinks that the effect of foreign labour "is akin to the use of performance-enhancement drugs in sports", as reported in "Opposition parties weigh in on Budget measures" (Feb 19).

Her analogy may not be appropriate, as the use of foreign labour is mainly out of necessity and demand stems mainly from the private sector.
Use of foreign labour is certainly not a "necessity" and businesses that depend on excessive proportions of foreign labour for their existence should ship out of Singapore because they are not conducive to the economic restructuring that this country is trying to achieve!
Cost of hiring is one factor but may not be the main factor. The reality is that we lack the numbers to fill the jobs available, from construction workers, cleaners and stall helpers to teachers, managers, doctors, engineers and chief executive officers.
Firstly, is this letter about cheap foreign labour or expensive foreign labour? This writer is obviously confused because he is calling "teachers, managers, doctors, engineers and CEOs" cheap labour. The last time I checked, none of the above were "cheap."

Secondly, the circumstance of excess jobs over labour in Singapore is an illusion because wages are artificially depressed. One wages and prices adjust upward to account for the labour shortage the job market will automatically adjust and the so-called "excess" jobs will disappear gradually.
The Government's role is that of a regulator, ensuring that businesses are not affected due to labour shortage,
The Government's role is to make the decision that best serves the interest of Singaporean citizens as a whole! It is not the job of the Government to serve the selfish interests of business owners at the expense of causing negative externalities to the rest of the country! Overcrowding in Singapore has already been a significant contributor to skyrocketing housing prices and infrastructure failure. Wages remain depressed and productivity growth is abysmal. Are we to continue serving the interests of business owners at the expense of the rest of society???
On Monday, the letter "Budget policies will hit SME hiring" presented the concern and negative impact of tougher foreign labour controls from the perspective of an affected business.

For some companies, the need for foreign labour is akin to the need for water to survive. So, it may be unfair to say that the Government is using cheap labour to spur growth.
Like I have already said, businesses which have to depend on cheap foreign labour for their survival should ship out of Singapore and go to a cheap foreign country! A business which has to depend on cheap foreign labour has a fundamentally unsustainable competitive position and is precisely what we do not want for Singapore!
Citizens can play a part in cutting down the number of foreign workers, although there are inconveniences and other costs we have to pay.

We could employ fewer foreign maids by doing household chores ourselves. We could take lunch to office instead of eating at food centres, or cut down visits to restaurants, hair saloons and other personal services, as these are foreign labour-intensive.
Now the writer completely flip-flops and says that the problem is that Singaporeans are at fault for consuming services which are labour intensive. So now is it the fault of businesses or is it the fault of consumers?

I have a very simple suggestion. Just reduce the number of foreign labourers in Singapore and wage inflation will automatically filter through into the prices of food at food centres and the cost of a haircut. Then the price mechanism will automatically encourage people to pack their own lunch to office or to cut their own hair.
Those waiting for their public flats must be patient if they do not want any increase in foreign construction workers. We could also persuade our friends and relatives to be bus drivers or nurses. Have we tried?
LOL! Whose fault is it that we didn't build enough flats in the first place when we had the opportunity and now are belatedly rushing to top-up the shortfall??? This moron wants to blame Singaporeans for the fact that HDB didn't implement the correct housing policies in the last 5-10 years!

Just as retarded is the argument that it is our fault for not persuading our friends and relatives to be bus drivers and nurses. LOL. Seriously, has Ng Ya Ken himself tried persuading his own friends and relatives to be bus drivers and nurses???

The way to encourage Singaporeans to take up jobs such as bus drivers and nurses is to wean these industries off foreign labour so that wage inflation can automatically attract Singaporeans into these industries! The current wages that these industries pay is artificially suppressed and not conducive to the survival of Singaporeans!

Unfortunately for Singaporeans, their Government has failed to make the best decision for this country as a whole with regards to immigration policy. It has bent over to the demands of the business lobby without due regard to the externalities caused by serving the interests of a minority segment of society.

Ng Ya Ken should stop brainlessly contorting his logic to defend the Government and wake up to the reality that this is one of the most severe instances of PAP Government failure in Singapore's history that has imposed significant social costs on the country.

1 comment:

Eddy Blaxell said...

Good to see a hard-hitting critical analysis of an ill-informed and insufficiently considered piece. As more and more people step out of the shadows to offer their views in public, they will also have to cope with having their views deconstructed and their inaccuracies brought to light.

Through this process we can all become better and more careful commentators, whichever side of the fence we sit on. Even those who begin with a large bias towards one side or another can be brought to see the middle ground through careful analysis of their thoughts. My only hope is that the criticism on new voices is not so harsh as to drive newcomers out of the public debate entirely.