Singapore is home to more than a million foreigners. Actually nearly half of Singapore’s 5m population are foreigners if permanent residents are included. Some were on temporary work passes as construction and manual workers, but many were professional and technical staff in the group called PMETs. The foreign PMETs is a big group of foreign talents employed in high earning jobs. Many were appointed to top local institutions over the locals when local talents were found wanting.
They are a very blessed group of professionals, earning high incomes and an enriching lifestyle that they could not find in their home countries. Some may take root and eventually become citizens while many will return home with a nice savings that will multiply several times in their homeland.
The Singaporeans must thank these people for contributing to the vibrancy and high economic growth of the country. This is the daily mantra that is heard in all the right places. And grateful the Singaporeans should be for the jobs that were created by their presence. Otherwise Singapore will not be able to enjoy the sustained high growth rates over the years, culminating in a superlative 15% growth in year 2011, the highest in the world.
While praises were heaped on these benefactors, a small corner of the population is sulking. There is another group of PMETs, the locals, that is finding life pretty tough going. Those above 50 got to pray that they do not lose their jobs for any reasons. For if it did happened, they are unlikely to find another employment. If they did, it will be a big downgrade and big reduction in income.
Many have gone for retraining for lower grade jobs with lower pay. Their skills and experience were no longer wanted and their jobs replaced by the new and gleaming foreign PMETs. Some turned to being self employed, driving taxis or becoming housing or insurance agents or any kind of agents, to be financially productive. With the high cost of living, high medical fees and high of everything, no income is a dreaded option. Worst, many still have school going children to support.
The lack of job opportunities for this small group of Singaporeans is not confined to just the oldies. Many in their 30s and 40s are also facing intense competition from foreign PMETs for jobs. The experience of writing tomes of application letters without getting a reply is defeating and humiliating. The sense of being not good enough or not wanted by any organisation is hard on the morale and self worth.
Even young graduates are encountering bad experiences in their job finds. The trend of hire and fire and contract staff are making life that much more uncertain. And the young people are expected, if they choose to get hitch, to take a huge housing loans of several hundred thousands, and repayable over 30 years.
How many people on temporary or short term contract jobs would dare to make such financial commitments? The letters of desperation and despair are mounting. In a country that can provide hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs to foreigners, it is troubling to see a section of its own citizens being marginalised, living in fear of being unemployed. These are the alienated citizens of a country that boasted of the highest concentration of millionaires in the world.
The aliens of paradise are complaining. They want to be heard, their plight known to the policy makers that turned their lives upside down. They are living a life of insecurity in a land of plenty for foreigners.
There is no official figure on the size of these aliens in their home country. Many are trying to make their presence felt today at Hong Lim Park, the Speakers Corner for free speech, provided one has registered with the Police. I am not sure if the rules have changed. If not, no free speech for anyone who is not registered with the authority before his freedom to speak.
Today, 4 June, at 5 pm, Gilbert Goh of Transitioning.Org forum is calling for the aliens to gather and make their feelings and plight heard. They are to wear black as a sign of unity and support for the affected. Jobs for Singaporeans is their call.
In the land of millionaires, fear not the despair.