Parliament passes motion to secure Singaporean jobs amid anxieties

The heated debate touched on foreign worker displacement

Parliament passes motion to secure Singaporean jobs amid anxieties

Parliament has passed a motion to help secure jobs for Singaporeans, amid mounting tensions over foreign worker increases. Following a 10-hour debate that ended after midnight, parliament passed the motion filed by Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, beating one tabled by Progress Singapore Party (PSP) member Leong Mun Wai.

Wong's motion said that it acknowledges the anxieties Singaporeans have over their livelihoods, and the pressures of a competitive environment – however. However, the report also affirmed the need for the city-state to remain open in order to grow.

The new legislation supports government actions to ensure fair treatment for employees and invest in education and upskilling to offer more opportunities for Singaporeans. The motion urged the government to continue to improve policies to secure livelihoods of the locals.

Wong acknowledged that the strategy his motion laid out is not "easy to implement politically." However, the minister stressed that there will be worse consequences if firms were restricted from hiring international talent. He added that the government is already retraining mid-career workers, but this "does not happen overnight."

Read more: Employees fearful of job security, cites lack of digital skills

He added that "best support" will be provided to those who have been "knocked down by the winds of change," referring to the state's open economy.

"Some have been knocked down by the winds of change, and it's not simply a matter of bouncing back on your feet again, especially when you're older," he was quoted as saying by Channel NewsAsia.

Attack against foreigners?

Wong's motion was set against Leong's, which tried to single out "provisions on Movement of Natural Persons in some free trade agreements (FTAs) like the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA)" as reason behind Singaporeans' livelihood anxieties.

Leong denied that the motion attacked foreigners, but said Singapore's foreign employment policies have been displaced many local professionals, managers, and executives.

Wong's motion also addressed the matter, expressing disapproval over "attempts to spread misinformation" about FTAs like the CECA. According to the minister, squeezing out foreigners does not mean more jobs for Singaporeans, adding that the PSP's arguments on the matter were "simplistic and wishful thinking."

Read more: PM Lee addresses job security issues amid COVID-19

"I think all of these arguments miss out on the most important point, and that's the stark reality that Singaporeans are great in the workforce but there are just not enough of us," he pointed out.

He added that Singapore will see more changes, with more jobs generated and some regarded as out of date.

"How Singapore capitalises on these opportunities while addressing the anxieties around jobs will determine our success and whether we remain cohesive and intact as one people," Wong said.

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