Are foreign workers preferred over local workers?


NTUC mass-recruiting cashiers and warehouse storeman from China

A netizen spotted this advertisement in a Chinese website put up by Singapore’s NTUC to recruit cashiers and warehouse storeman from China:

NTUC is offering a salary of between S$980 and S$1250 to the PRC applicants. It is not known why the vacancies are not offered to Singaporeans first.

First it was mass recruitment campaign to fill up 1,600 bus drivers needed to operate the extra 900 new buses. Now it’s NTUC’s turn to mass recruit those PRCs to replace our local aunties working in our neighbourhood FairPrice as cashiers and manning 4D lottery counters? It can’t be to fill up vacancies for 900 extra vacancies in extra outlets right?

BTW, the official acronym for NTUC is National Trades Union Congress. There are many unofficial acronyms which I shall not mention here.

I thought that NTUC is supposed to fight for our workers’ rights and welfare? How come they are also resorting to cheap foreign labour to boost their bottom line? Granted that there is a quota on foreign workers but NTUC I feel should not resort to fill up the quota just like other private enterprises.

Didn’t the Labour Chief mention about increasing productivity first before we can increase lowly paid workers when he shot down our gentlemanly eminent economics professor Lim Chong Yah’s “shock therapy?”

By mass recruiting cheap foreign workers can NTUC boost up productivity? I’m quite ignorant. I’m one of those daft Singaporeans. Please enlighten me cuz I am confused and really can’t figure out the link between abundantly available cheap labour and raising productivity?

Just last week I met Train Officer Reeza and we compared notes on housing benefits for citizens in Singapore and Malaysia. Please read here for the details. He did comment that only in Singapore where foreigners could find a job easily.

Whereas in Malaysia it’s not that easy. The company must give 101 reasons why it can’t get locals. Even though the company is allowed to employ foreigners on work permit, the salary must be the same as the local worker plus foreign worker levy! It makes it more expensive to hire foreigners. This is to encourage the company to hire more locals instead of foreigners.

In Singapore, even the Trade Unions engage foreigners when they are supposed to lead by example. Train Officer Reeza was talking about the difficulty of hiring foreigners in Malaysia as compared to Singapore giving red carpet treatment to all kinds of foreigners to work here on jobs that locals can fill up.

On one hand, they are flooding our job market with cheap labour import and on the other hand they are talking about boosting productivity? This really beats me. It doesn’t take a genius to wonder how to break free of this vicious cycle?

The only country in the world is in Singapore where a foreigner could easily get a job. No other country scores better than us on this. In fact, we go there to organize job fair and seminar to bring them over by the plane load.

If given easy access to tons of cheap labour i.e. trade unions in this case, do you think they will want to increase productivity? What productivity or higher wages are they talking about when there is always tons of cheap labour easily available?

I read about a local Singaporean not able to get a sales assistant job in NTUC FairPrice. I hope it is not true. It shows that there are locals willing to take the job. Why discriminate against our local Singaporeans?

Having cheap foreign labour from third world countries to fill up cashiers and store keepers is still not so bad. What if they are recruited to drive the 900 buses on our public roads? Do we need more langgar cases before they wake up? I’m sure you’ve read about the foreign bus driver mauling down an old lady in Sengkang recently. The video was circulated around in the net for some time. Read this article on another incident involving a recent PRC bus driver.


On Saturday’s edition of ST (19/5/12), Professor Tommy Koh published an article arguing against low wages and low fertility rates in Singapore as compared to other first world countries. It is an article backed by facts and figures. It’s very excellent piece of article I read so far.


By looking at those figures (taken from the article) are we not ‘underpaid?’ Pray, pls tell us – we the citizens of Singapore – and convince us otherwise.

My friend Alec Ee forwarded this piece to me …

“Yahoo comments by a foreigner on the Ferrari accident …

Being an expat myself who also lived in Singapore for a year back in the mid 1990’s I have to be completely honest and say that I really think the Singaporean Government should try to stick a finger in the ground and listen to its own population for once.

Even I as a foreigner much prefer the The Singapore I experienced 18 years ago from the Singapore today where everything seems to be aimed at creating a higher GDP on paper for show with the result that Singaporeans are being made secondary citizens in their own country.

It is really no wonder that ordinary Singaporeans feel they have had enough. Due to the Governments stance on labour laws it has been possible for employers to virtually make Singaporeans extinct within certain industries.

The service sector in Singapore is today virtually void of local Singaporeans. When I go to Changi Airport to fly anywhere the only place I meet local Singaporeans is in Immigration.

Honestly, a people should never have to feel alienated in their own country.

A completely unnecessary accident as the described just fuels the feelings already deeply rooted in most Singaporeans and that is only the lasted case.

Why is it possible for somebody else than Singaporean citizens to occupy HDB flats?

Why has it been allowed that some foreigners have been able to stay in the PR scheme almost indefinitely?

Why are many Singaporeans treated differently in hospitals and educational institutions just because you have foreigners standing there waving money?

I can only recommend the Singaporean Government to wake up and look at the realities. A very real scenario may reveal itself in 2016 and maybe that is about time as well.

I am not a Singaporean nor can I ever become one but I do have enough common sense to understand that there is something very wrong in Singapore when local Singaporeans are being put second or further back in line to pretty much everything while some foreigners, who’s only asset for Singapore is money, take first row.

Maybe The Singaporean Government don’t even care how some of these newly rich have actually aquired their wealth.

Many of them may not really be people you want to be associated with like this irresponsible crazy PRC moron who by his splendid show of stupidity managed to take the lives of two innocent people of which one was just an ordinary family father who worked to provide for his family.” Unquote

I did not say those things. The foreigner’s comments reproduced here. I think we should reflect on this.

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About Gintai_昇泰

I'm a Chinese Singaporean living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I write for pleasure. I also write mainly for my family and friends.
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14 Responses to Are foreign workers preferred over local workers?

  1. agongkia says:

    This NTUC recruitment on foreign staff to me gives me an impression that they also agree and understand that local Singaporean are not as attractive as foreigner.
    S$1K can get healthy and young,Pre U above staff to chop fish or sell 4D ,why not.

    To be fair,my feedback from some towkays is that many workers, though not all , are also choosy .Exploiting their employers but only knows how to complain and give problem .Instead of helping the employers,want simple job,cannot take pressure,cannot get along with colleagues,fall sick easily and taking advantages of the political situation by threatening employer with MOM etc ,including insurance claim and extensive MCs if they are injured,but found hanging out at shopping centres. .
    I hear one even want his employer to make false declaration that his salary is 3.5K when his salary is only 1.2 K,Why?He contributed 10% of his salary through Giro to his religion and the more he contributed,the more advantages he got like free tour etc than those who contribute lesser.Till the day that there is another recession,employing locals is actually more troublesome than getting foreigners.
    The only way to stop the influx of foreign talents is by hoping for another recession.
    Wait until one day when I really become a towkay,hehe.Ho Say Leow…I may also want to consider recruiting foreigner.NTUC can why I cannot?

    But now I can only day dream.I can only play my part by supporting local beer auntie.
    Local Auntie,give me a beer.

    • SG Girl says:

      FTs work harder than us? You’ve yet to see FTs who reached office at 10am (whereas local staff reached at 9am) and got the cheek to go out for breakfast. Then worked slowly to stay late after office hours to claim meal allowance and cab fares and they repeat the cycle claiming the previous night they work late and couldn’t wake up. How about those that the employers interviewed over the phone (overseas call) and recruited the FTs only to find out that whatever they answered during the phone interviews, they could not perform the tasks. That was due to the FT got someone to stand in the phone interview for them. And those who know the boss always come in at 10am, they’ll reach office at 9.45am. The list can go on…

      A handful of unproductive and lazy local staff does not warrant a mass recruitment of overseas people across all industries from blue collar to white collar workers.

      • Alan Tang says:

        Hi Sg girl,
        I understand that you follow my blog but rarely comment. I think this one made you cannot tahan! Lol! You just said it. You know there are easily more than 100 of my colleagues reading my blog and they like you seldom comment. But when they meet me, they would offer their views. I just met my CMT – Crew Manager Train. He told me KNN, his wife applied for a sales assistant or any other type of job in NTUC but not successful, NOT even called up! My this CMT is an Indian. He also observed other nationalities working in NTUC! So this is from my colleague. If NTUC ppl reading this, I’m willing to provide details. I told my CMT I will put it on my blog’s comment section! In fact, the feedback I received is that generally companies prefer FTs due to its abundant supply readily available. This is sad. I wonder why our local citizens have become inferior to those FTs? We have become 2nd class citizens in our own country. Our pink NRIC is worthless now.
        I don’t know if it’s true when my Muslim colleagues go on Haj in Mecca. I was told that there are separate counters for locals and foreigners when they go to govt offices or supermarkets. If no special counter, the locals could just cut queue and demand to be served first. This is how they treat their own citizens. They are accorded with privileges and dignity. That should be the way. You try doing that here. The MPs will tell you to reflect and ‘tolerate’ those FTs! Think ‘curry’ incident and the ‘Sun Xu’ incident. You can see it for yourself. I do not wish to say or I’ll be accused of anti establishment or ‘gunning’ those MPs which I do not take pleasure doing that at all. I don’t feel proud attacking my own MPs. What do I gain by doing that?

      • agongkia says:

        Agree with you.FTs dun work harder,they work smarter.
        NTUC recruits FTs so as to stay competitive ,sell you items with so claim cheaper rate than your neighbourhood provision shops.
        Tell me honestly,when is the last time you all patronise and support your neighbourhood Kiat Ai or provision shops.Do you feel sad when you know that your neighbourhood Kiat Ai close down ?
        You all want to buy item from NTUC thinking it is cheaper.NTUC also can recruit FTs thinking it is cheaper.
        By patronising NTUC you all oso play a part in the recruitment of FTs.You all oso prefer FTs indirectly and unknowingly.How many dun buy from NTUC,Kee Chiu^^

        • Luckily we got Seng Siong, shop n save etc to counter NTUC. Their goods are not that cheap. It’s just that they give you back some rebates at end of year. Those neighbourhood provision shops go out of business cuz they don’t have the bulk purchasing power. They do not the muscle like those big supermarkets. That is the main reason why they can’t survive. Langgar !

  2. I quite agree with you that some locals are quite pampared. But not all. Most of them are just making ends meet to survive and feed their family. For example I have nvr taken a single MC for many years already. You see my mgt take MC seriously. Even I met with a minor accident or chicken pox which can’t be avoided they still think that you are not productive. MC is MC to them. That will affect our annual appraisal amongst other things like lateness or complts etc. If your appraisal is poor, no bonus. If average get average bonus etc. that is why I say not all local workers behave like you said on your comment. Thks for your comment.

    • agongkia says:

      Agree,That is why I stated not all locals are like that and we have many locals who are far much productive than FTs.Sad to say,maybe they are poor in apple polishing.
      My employer has a record of 100 percent local.No FTs.
      But not taking MC is not good enough,you must try to blog something that your towkay like to hear.I believe you can have a very good chance for promotion.
      As for me,my employer is different.He leaves everything to me but I can lost my bonus if I try to carry him.He despise balls carrier and only want result and no complaints.But staff turnover rate is low.
      Happy working.

  3. The fact is there will be employees who want simple job and higher pay, foreign or local.
    The fact is there are low wage jobs that locals don’t want to take but eagerly snapped up by foreigners who don’t mind even lower pay. The question is ‘why?’ If we brush them off simply by saying ‘locals are choosy and pampered’ or even if this is true, then no amount of quota and salary will solve the problem. Are locals really less hard striving than foreigners? More than 40 years of nation building under a single party rule only to churn out a population of grumblers and loafers?
    I like to see how many foreigners will take up low wage jobs for extended period of time, take up citizenship, buy a flat, move his entire family here, live with the same cost and standard of living here with no other alternatives to move back to where the cost of living is much lower. Tell me, if they will accept the low wage then.
    Perhaps they will if they hail from countries where their government is useless and corrupt who can’t even provide low wage jobs for them.

  4. Lohcifer says:

    Let’s be objective. Some facts you need to consider; random thoughts in my mind:

    1. Saying that we are underpaid by looking at the salaries of those countries like Denmark etc is too simplistic a view. Is Prof Koh showing signs of mental deterioration or what? Does the Prof want to pay income tax that could be more than half of his earnings as people in some countries in Europe are doing? Lan pa pa lah, geddit? What’s the point of a “high” salary when more than half goes back to the government? To determine pay equity, HR consultants look at job size, then assign measurable values to each job. These consultants can only do a comparison of similar jobs assigned similar values. Cannot just look at dollars. Example: If a road sweeper’s job size in country A is valued at say a certain number of points, and if a road sweeper’s job size in country B is also valued at about the same number of points, then only a comparison can be made as to whether the rewards are equitable. Even then, it can be complicated as other factors must be taken into consideration – the costs of living, for example, which country are we talking about, etc. A train driver in Singapore may get X dollars but a similar size job in say Sierra Leone may get more because employers in Sierra Leone, the murder capital of world maybe, are willing to pay more for people willing to take a greater risk with their lives working in such places, places where you need armed guards to drive you to your train station so that you can drive that bloody train, know what I mean? Less extreme example: Take Singapore and Hong Kong, traditionally companies in Hong Kong have always opted to pay a bit more than other countries to attract talent so a marketing executive in Hong Kong doing a similar size job as that of a marketing executive in Singapore, will get paid more. My point is, we can’t just look at numbers and say wow a cleaner in Singapore gets 800 bucks but his counterpart in Sweden gets 3667. How much is Swedish income tax? How safe is Sweden? Sure it’s safer than many other countries in that part of the world, but at 3am would you dare jog along the streets? Will the increasing number of menacing Turks who are there legally or illegally give you trouble? Lots of factors to consider. Do I have a solution? No I don’t – I didn’t and don’t get paid millions to think of solutions. I was just a worker bee, now semi-retired. It is the responsibility of unions (utterly impotent because all of them here are in the pockets of our government, so we are screwed royally) and entities like National Wages Council, Ministry of Labor, etc to look after workers’ interests. As you can tell, they aren’t doing exactly a fantastic job, considering the level of dissatisfaction here.

    2. Not every foreign worker here is a “foreign talent” with expat perks – many foreign workers are here because spoilt locals with unrealistic expectations refuse to do certain jobs. Our strawberry generation looks good but bruise easily. Just look at the national servicemen we have nowadays – no need to polish boots, no need to starch uniforms, carry iPad for training, eating food catered by SATS and one road march and some drop dead. My time we were trained by Israeli commanders who asked us to strip naked and rolled on the parade square under the noonday sun. Do that now and I think we will get mass suicides! Today teachers reprimand students in school and they get hit with lawyer letters. What the fuck? We are going to hell in a hand basket. In many countries people work two or even three jobs; yes, even in ang moh countries. Here, Singaporeans can’t wait to do the least for the most pay. Many Singapore companies would rather hire workers from overseas because these people are willing to work hard, they are hungry, they will “piah” to eke out a living. Nobody in Singapore wants to “piah” anymore. When I interview Singaporeans they ask “Do I have to work weekends? Do I get a company car? When I travel for work, do you let me travel business class? How many corporate credit cards do I get? How many people report to me?” (and they have zero managerial experience) and “When do I get promoted?” (they haven’t even proven themselves yet) and they also dictate to me crap like “I need to nurture my marriage/spend quality time with family and pets, etc, so at 5 sharp I will go home, can you accept that? If not, I can’t work for you” whereas foreigners always say “Give me a chance to prove myself, when can I start? You want me to work Saturday, Sunday no problem, I can work if you want me to.” I tell foreign workers to jump, they ask me “How high?” Tell that to Singaporeans and they ask “Why must I jump? This is not my father’s company what.” Notice the difference in attitude? See what I mean?

    • Hi Lohcifer,
      Thank you for your insightful views. There are some points I agree and some I don’t. Let me give u my frank opinion.
      You see not one but few prominent persons from our society have openly said that our wages are really too low due to mass foreign import. The fact that we are the 3rd richest country yet having the lowest wages amongst the first world countries has created much debate and divisiveness in our society. Those prominent ppl who spoke out are not politicians out to gain votes. They got nothing to gain by langgaring the establishment. That is something we need to take note.
      Even though they pay half of their wages on tax, it’s still higher than us. If we include the CPF which is also a form of tax, our taxes are also not low in that sense. They pay high taxes cuz its their social socurity or pension which is similar to our CPF system. Fact is we have the highest Gini coefficients! The facts speak for themselves.
      Talking about our better security amongst the developed countries is quite debatable. Like you say it depends on many factors. But we have the most important factor ie Sec 55 of the Temporary Criminal Law provisions which has a lifespan of only 5 yrs but keeps getting renewed for more than 50 yrs! Pls read details here
      It is such a powerful law which those countries do not have that our secret society and triads were wiped out overnite ! It can also be used on anybody who destabilizes the country such as trade unions calling for strikes to cripple the economy or even politicians such as communists etc. I do not need to elaborate. It’s all written in our history books.
      Next you talk about our strawberry generation. This I do agree with you. It’s partly due to the two child policy. Most parents have only one or two kids. They are pampered and could not really take the tough life in the rough regimental training in the army or police. It’s a sad fact. Remember the maid carrying the full pack of a soldier? Also there are so many cases of death on training running the 2.4km etc. I believe it’s due to the constant air con in the house, classroom, shopping centres, trains, cars etc. You see their body is artificially conditioned to the low temperature. They just can’t take the heat. You can’t have air con in the jungle or on the road running and marching! They have lost the acclimatization of a hot humid environment so they simply drop when they are exposed to heat. This is due to luxury life they leading prior to NS.
      I do agree that those FTs are very much hungry than our young. All that you mention are the result of different societal set up.
      Having said that does it give our elected govt the authority to mass import so much FTs to edge out our own sons and daughters? Look at those countries cited by the professor. Do those countries resort to mass import of foreigners? Which country on earth has got nearly a third of foreigners comprising a country’s population of 3 vs 2 millions. Still they say not enough. Must import some more. This is clearly madness. Do you not agree with this view?
      More and more locals are realizing this when they found themselves prized out. I’m referring to those genuine hardworking locals. It will soon lead to a breaking point if it continues unabated!
      Hope you see my points. Pls feel free to comment again if you disagree. Thks for your participation. Pls excuse my typo errors.

  5. Hi Ape,
    From my own personal experience at my work place where there are many PRs amongst us, most of them prefer to work and retire back to their hometown. It’s a fact cuz costs of living much higher here. They make their money here and retire there. They have no desire to make this expensive place their home. This is what I hear from most of them. They reap all the benefits and return to their hometown.
    In other bigger countries with hinterlands, those people also do the same. Work in the city and retire in the countryside where costs are lower. Unfortunately, we do not have any hinterland. Ours is a city state where we can’t escape high costs of living in a city. We will have to live with this fact unlike other citizens from / in other countries.

  6. Anonymous says:

    As u can see the cost of living in Singapore is damn high for this generation.. If u said that Singaporean want to have high salary for at least $1,600 for just a cashier job, I agreed to that.. It is because the cost of living is very high.. We cant afford to be paid $800 a month like how they aid the foreigner.. Everything in Singapore has increased.. But our pay still stagnant like 10 years ago..

    I will tell you that we are being treated as a secondary citizens.. If the ‘Whites’ still conquer our country, in 20 years time u can see our children living in East Coast Park under a tent.. With no job as it is prioritise to FT and no house as it keep increasing the price market..

    • Those FTs need only send back a few hundreds to feed their entire family. We can’t. We got to pay high installments for our “govt subsidized flats” for 30 yrs, school fees for kids, transport, food etc if you visit A&E twice a month it’s $90 each time. So dont fall sick or get injured! What abt tuition fees and others? Those FTs work here earning low wages but their family living in a low cost environment back in their hometown. At the end of the day they go back rich after working here for few yrs. We have read of domestic maids retiring home after working here for 10 yrs with land, houses and all the children finishing university just on her few hundreds of wages per mth! We are different. Our economy is basically a first world economy based on cheap third world workforce comprising cheap foreign labour. A good example is our construction industry. Do those countries like Korea, Japan or Taiwan have foreigners amounting to hundreds of thousands in the construction sector like us? Just go to Little India on a weekend and you will understand the seriousness of the situation.

  7. says:

    This post adjusts the wage comparisons for currency, living expenses and taxes:

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