Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Discrimination against Singaporean males

I got this in my mailbox from a reader. I am also aware of the HWZ thread about a Taiwanese executive telling a Singaporean at a job interview, that he wouldn't hire Singaporean males because of the NS liability.

It's something I had considered raising as one of my "cuts" for the Committee of Supply debates, but decided against because I simply ran out of time. And this e-mail came after the deadline for filing "cuts" closed. I will think about filing a PQ on this issue.

Having said that, I disagree with this e-mail. It equates an enlightened employer with one who will "threat [sic] everybody the same and give equal opportunity to the best talents".

But to me, an enlightened employer is one who will recognise that NS is an obligation imposed on all Singaporean males, and that an employer located in Singapore should support that. This is especially so when the decision-maker is Singaporean himself.

It is a short-sighted, dollars-and-cents kind of guy who just looks at numbers, who would give a job to a foreigner simply because he does not have NS liability and is cheaper since employers' CPF contribution is not payable. And what is particularly disappointing is that Kevin, after having been at the receiving end of discrimination due to NS, turns around and discriminates against locals due to CPF.

As for the comment on IBM's treatment of Singaporean males, I think that particular practice was not enlightened. When I was in private practice, I had billing targets as well. But when people went on reservist, they had their billing targets adjusted for the duration of the reservist training. So if Kevin's story is true, then the fact that IBM did not do so, and then essentially held the billable hours clocked against the Singaporean males, makes IBM an unenlightened MNC in that respect.

I disagree with your views about NS call-up. I was with IBM (prettyenlighten MNC) some years ago. As consultant, part of our performance indicator was the "Billable hours" we clocked.

120 hrs lost a year (ICT) shows up clearly on graphs & charts, especially when 60% of the group were non-Singaporean. We were band in the lower percentile and not only loose out in increment, bonuses, but also in promotion opportunities.

In order to minmise that, some of us choose to take long overseas projects to stay ahead of competition and avoided ICT (not always successful).

Now that I'm making hiring decision, I realised it's cheaper to hire Indian consultants even when they are asking for the same pay as Singaporeans just because of the employer CPF contribution. I'm referring to pretty entry level job, when a locals fresh grad is asking for the same salary as an imported Indians with a 3-4 yrs of experienec, a MBA or Master in IT and no ICT liability.

Why should any truely enlighten employer give chance to locals when they can get better employees at the same price. Shouldn 't an enlighten individual threat everybody the same and give equal opportunity to the best talents?

Deprived of the experience, the locals fresh grads will loose out in the long run (not talking about the top 25% of each class who should not have problem landing on good jobs). When these imported talents decides to return home or find better opportunities in US, the cumulated knowledge goes with them and Singapore loose out. It's a lost-lost to both Singapore companies as well as citizens.

Think about it. Most of our Ministers are too short-term minded. You cannot govern just looking and numbers.

[name removed at writer's request]


yh said...


You cannot blame a company for being profit oriented. The key reason these MNC comes to singapore is the lower labor cost; if they can employ a more productive, cheaper non singaporean, why not?

As competition in our job market heats up due to a (even larger) influx of foreign workers, the price a male singaporean pays gets higher. It's obvious. But if we are willing to continue being exploited, the government will continue to ignore the problem.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Kum Hong:

Maybe you're a bit out of touch with the general job market.

Your private practice experience is not relevant here. The legal profession is protected - both by practising certificate requirements, and by the government's artificial choke on the supply of lawyers.

Maybe you will find this interesting.

Siew Kum Hong said...

Please see my new post on this issue.

noisividyoj said...

IBM is well known to be a place for career minded women.

MNCs from the US tend to be performance driven.

So it's no surprise that any males who wants to survive in IBM has to deal with female HRs and MDs with little sympathy to Singaporean males with ICT liability. In addition, IBM being American and a corporate entity has little sympathy if the people who staff it are driven by material goals rather than Nationalistic(Singaporean) goals.

Is it any surprise?