Exchange on Securing Singaporeans’ Jobs and Livelihoods, and Foreign Talent Policy

Debate on Motions of Securing Singaporeans’ Jobs and Livelihoods, and Foreign Talent Policy

Mr Speaker: Ms Hazel Poa.

Ms Hazel Poa: Firstly, the charts that have been displayed on the screen over at our location, we cannot see it, any of it. So, can I request for it to be made available to us in a different form?

Mr Speaker: I am sure we can.

Ms Hazel Poa: Okay. The Minister is still quoting 300,000 increase in local PME jobs, but you have not quite answered my question whether those figures include changes resulting from reclassification, as I have mentioned in my speech earlier.

To clarify on my PQs asking for data that is already published, when I communicated with the Parliament Staff, I made it clear that I wanted to compare with some of the statistics that the Government has released; sometimes, as PMETs, sometimes as PMEs.

So, I said that they could either tell us which are the finer classifications that come under PMEs or PMETs or, alternatively, give me the total number of PMETs and PMEs because what is published goes into finer classifications.

Mr Speaker: Minister.

Dr Tan See Leng: For the first point, in terms of the reclassification, I do not have all the statistics here with me now. But the majority, I think I have shared that on 6 July in my Ministerial Statement. The majority of the local PME growth over the last 10 years went to Singaporeans born in Singapore – the majority. That is more than 50%. So, I would urge Ms Hazel Poa not to drive this kind of separation and segregation. Because I really do not think it is healthy for all of us, particularly when at some stage in our not too distant past, all of us, our parents, maybe our grandparents were immigrants.

Ms Hazel Poa: Okay, I would like to clarify that my intention is not to separate between those who are born in Singapore and those who are naturalised, but merely to understand which are really jobs created and which are really just, due to technicalities, they result in an increase in job but is actually not a real increase; it is just that the job holder’s status is reclassified.        

Dr Tan See Leng: Perhaps, I was not clear. The majority of the jobs created went to Singaporeans who are born and bred here. Not reclassified, yes. 

Mr Speaker: Ms Hazel Poa, do you want to pursue that?

Ms Hazel Poa: Okay, you are unable to give a number? Just majority?

Mr Speaker: Ms Hazel Poa, are you asking about Singaporeans, naturalised, born here or are you talking about —

Ms Hazel Poa: Actually, my intention is just to net off the effect of that job increase which is due to reclassification so that we get a better idea what really is the number of new jobs created. 

Mr Speaker: Would you like to elaborate what do you mean by “reclassification of jobs”?

Ms Hazel Poa: Okay, I have mentioned this in my speech earlier. So, let us say, for example, you have 1,000 PME jobs held by foreigners. And when these foreigners become PRs, because of the change in status, these 1,000 jobs are now classified under local PMEs —

Mr Speaker: Understand. So, it is still the issue of Singaporean born, others and so on. Okay, Minister.

Dr Tan See Leng: Mr Speaker, Sir, earlier on I covered it; maybe I was too longwinded. I will just repeat it. During the 6 July Ministerial Statement, I had already shared that the majority of local PME growth over the last decade went to Singaporeans born in Singapore. I know you want a specific percentage, it is a majority, so, it is more than 50%. This is the same for PMETs.

Some of the other data points we have published should make it clear that Singaporeans have benefited. We regularly publish unemployment rates for PRs and citizens. The unemployment rate of citizens has remained stable and low. Secondly, the PR population has also remained stable over the past decade at around 500,000 or half a million. So it is not, and it cannot be the case that most of the employment growth went to PRs.

Ms Hazel Poa: Yes, but the PRs become citizens. So, there is a drop in the PRs and then the new foreigners go in to fill up the PR numbers. So, as a whole, the number of citizens plus PRs actually increases. That base increases, and, therefore, leading to an increase in the number of local PME jobs purely due to reclassification, not job creation. That is my point. I am not really even making a difference between citizens and PRs. I am just talking about local citizens plus PR. 

Dr Tan See Leng: Mr Speaker, may I respond?

Mr Speaker: Yes, please. 

Dr Tan See Leng: Ms Poa, I have said that the majority of the jobs went to local bred and born Singaporeans. Majority. That means more than 50%. So there is no reclassification. So, it is not like as if these PRs became naturalised Singaporeans. This majority is Singaporeans who are born and bred here. So, for that majority under that category, the statistics do not include those who are not born here. 

Ms Hazel Poa: Maybe let me just clarify. The majority of the job increase or majority of the PME jobs are held by those born and bred in Singapore?

Dr Tan See Leng: I am very mindful of and I am actually trying to understand the Member’s question here. But the majority of the jobs created went to Singaporeans. 

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