Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Questions for Written Answer #2 and #3: 21 May 2007

Here are 2 more WPQs filed for the sitting on 21 May 2007. The first WPQ is about stray cats, and is a follow-up to an earlier OPQ in March 2007, where I had asked about repeat complainants and the MOS did not have the information handy. Unfortunately the information is ultimately not as interesting or helpful as it could be, since the number of repeat complainants is not tracked (I think that's what the response meant).

The second WPQ is, like the one I posted earlier about figures on PRs and citizens, an attempt to get more information on a topic close to the heart of many Singaporeans, on which precious little detailed official data has been available.

It is by now accepted, and probably ingrained in many if not most of us, that Singapore needs to remain open to foreign talent/workers, to enable our economy to continue growing. What we have never seen are official statistics on the types of foreign talent/workers coming into Singapore (although Leong Sze Hian has posted some statistics, albeit without attribution as to source -- see this article, in point F8).

Unfortunately, again I was fobbed off. I basically did not receive a reply to (a) or (b) at all. I'm OK with not getting an answer for (c), if the data is not tracked. But what took the cake was how the response was able to disclose the "published foreign employment level" of 756,000, and yet claim that "a breakdown is not available" with a straight face. It's tough to understand how we can publish a total number without having a breakdown. Another to try again in July.



(Figures on Complaints)

Mr Siew Kum Hong: To ask the Minister for National Development, of the approximately 10,000 complaints about stray cats received by the Agri-Food Veterinary Authority (AVA), HDB and the Town Councils (a) how many were repeat complaints; (b) how many persons are these repeat complaints attributable to; and (c) how many of these repeat complaints were directed to AVA, HDB and the Town Councils respectively.

Mr Mah Bow Tan: Of the 10,000 complaints on stray cats received per year, half were lodged with the Town Councils. The remainder were lodged with AVA and HDB.

Approximately 18% of the total complaints received by the Town Councils were repeat complaints. AVA and HDB do not track the number of repeat complaints.



(Figures and Nationalities)

Mr Siew Kum Hong: To ask the Minister for Manpower for each of the last ten years (a) how many P1, P2, Q, R and S passes were issued; (b) what were the 20 most common nationalities of each class of work pass holders; and (c) what was the average period of validity for each class of work pass.

Dr Ng Eng Hen: Chart 1 shows the employment changes from 1998. The published foreign employment level is 756,000 and a breakdown is not available.

In recent years, our foreign employment has grown in tandem with robust economic growth and job creation. The number of work passes has also risen across the different pass types.

Foreigners of all nationalities can apply for P, Q and S passes. Depending on the industry sector, R pass holders may be from Malaysia, North Asian Sources such as Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea and Taiwan, or Non-Traditional Sources including Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

The length of stay, and hence period of work pass validity, for P, Q and S pass holders is largely determined by their employers. There is no stipulated maximum employment period. In contrast, there is a cap on the period that R pass holders can work in Singapore. MOM recently extended the maximum period to help employers retain their experienced R-pass holders. Please refer to Table 1.

Chart 1: Cumulative Employment Change, Jan 1998 - Dec 2006

[chart showing the "cumulative employment change" -- meaning the cumulative change in employment since January 1998 -- with one line for the total change, a second for the total change for local residents, and the third for the total change for foreigners. What this has to do with my question eludes me.]

Table 1: Maximum employment periods for R-pass Holders

Skills Level of R-pass HoldersPrevious Maximum Employment PeriodCurrent Maximum Employment Period (as at 1 April 2007)
Skilled (R1 pass)15 years18 years
Unskilled (R2 pass)4 years6 years


The Pariah said...

In my blog:,
I floated this idea that Singapore should explore this oxymoron of:
Temporary Permanent Resident. When Singapore grants PR status, we should embed an expiry date, taking into account The 7-Year Itch Syndrome!!!

Do read about what I said about being "A Nation of Immigrants, Migrants and Emigrants".

Siew Kum Hong said...

To the pariah: En bloc sales does seem to be very much the topic du jour amongst many people. I agree with many of your comments. Let's see what the amendments to the law are.

On a more light-hearted note, someone told me about an interesting concept of Singapore Inc. formulated by a Swedish academic. The board of directors is the Cabinet, while citizens are employees -- if they are not happy, they can resign (migrate), and new employees (immigrants) can also be brought in!

Christopher said...

Hi Mr Siew, it's not surprising that MOM does not wish to release the breakdown of employment pass categories. I guess that the information is sensitive because it carries a high political cost.

People would start asking why there are certain quotas and proportions, and any explanation would probably have some elitist undertones, intended or otherwise.

Even less surprising is their unwillingness to provide the breakdown of nationalities. Understandably so. For instance, it's impossible to avoid a debate on which country's workers are better if people start to question our policy on traditional and non-traditional sources of labour, or whether the large numbers of Chinese workers in Singapore is partly to maintain the racial balance. Touchy issues.

Since such discussions never end, it's quite convenient (and perhaps even logical) to sidestep your questions completely to save everybody the trouble of going through a long-drawn debate. I'm just as curious to know this information of course, but the people up there probably doubt that the masses can handle the truth.

Maybe you'll have better luck if you offer to be bound by the Official Secrets Act? :)

Siew Kum Hong said...

To christopher: I certainly agree with you on why MOM would like those figures to be secret. So what? Either they are classified, or they are not.

If they are classified, just say so instead of dodging the question. I will then only ask why it is confidential, but won't pursue it further.

But if not, then just reveal them. That is what true accountability to Parliament requires. It is obligatory lip service when you just answer the question you want to answer, when the question asked is different and very clear and to the point.

Maybe I am naive. Maybe this is just politics. But I don't see myself as a politician. I am non-partisan, indpendent, I don't look to score points against either side, I just want the truth on issues I think are of importance and of interest to the people.

Evading the question does nothing and nobody, not least the Parliamentary system of government and the fundamental principle of accountability, any favours.

I'll just have to try again.

Christopher said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly.

Yes please continue asking such questions. I'm sure that people appreciate your effort regardless of the (non)-reply.

Thank you.

Siew Kum Hong said...

To christopher: Thank you. It means more to me than you know. The unfortunate reality is that it is still happening -- and so I will have to keep trying.

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