I posted previously about this subject. There have been some comments about it. Let me clarify my views.
I'm not saying that such discrimination does not exist, or that I don't understand the motivation for it. Like I've said before, I used to be in a position to make hiring decisions and the thought certainly crossed my mind. (Together with the thoughts that women may take maternity leave and foreigners won't cost me employer's contribution.)
That's simply economic rationality.
But I said that an "enlightened" employer would understand the constraints that Singapore men and women face, constraints imposed by the system, and go beyond such considerations to focus only on what should be the sole consideration: a person's ability to do the job well. And that's what I strove to be enlightened.
After all, if an employer wants to make hiring decisions on the basis of such considerations, where would he/she draw the line? Not hire women because of potential maternity leave (and remember, the Government will reimburse employers for NS call-ups, but employers are not reimbursed for the first 2 months of maternity leave for the first 2 children)? Not hire Singaporeans or PRs to the maximum extent possible (which could well mean not at all for professional positions), because of the savings from not having to pay employers' CPF contributions?
Heck, not allow people to take extended vacations because of the disruption? I certainly would not take a job if the employer tells me that the company policy prohibits extended leave due to the disruption caused, would you?
Every employer needs to be prepared for an employee, however key or specialised his or her role, being unavailable for an extended period, for whatever reason. Let's not forget that the period of NS liability is predictable far in advance, and is shorter than maternity leave.
I disagree with those who would describe as "enlightened" employers who focus only on the bottom-line and decide against hiring Singaporean males solely on the basis of NS liability. That is an economically rational employer, which is not necessarily the same (and certainly isn't to me) as being enlightened.
Yes, we live in the real world, and this NS discrimination issue is a problem, as is evident from various people's comments both on this blog and elsewhere. Obviously we cannot expect all employers to be enlightened. If I didn't think that this issue is a real problem, I would not be considering raising it in Parliament.
But my reference to an "enlightened" employer was a normative concept (what employers should be like), and not a positive concept (what employers are really like). So I hope this post clarifies my views.
And finally, re Mr Wang's comment about how my private practice experience is irrelevant: my reference to private practice was to the practice of reducing billable targets to account for time spent out of the office due to NS liability. It was not a generic reference to the prevalence or otherwise of discrimination against NSmen. Furthermore, I was not asked that question when I was interviewed for my current in-house position which could be filled by a non-Singaporean lawyer as well, and my predecessor did have NS liability. So I'm not sure that the fact that the legal profession is protected really has that much to do with anything.