Frustrations should be directed at policies and twisted mentalities instead
July 24, 2011, 11:00 pm
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore

In the morning when I walk to work, I see migrant workers cycling beside the road or walking in groups to the bus stop. When I get off work in the evening and on my way to school or some other places, I see more migrant workers or foreign students on public transport, usually on their way home or to hang out in town.

Yes, their numbers have increased very significantly and a single ride on the MRT sometimes makes me feel like a minority in my own country. However they will definitely not stop coming because our leaders (no, I did not vote for them) believe in the exploitation of cheap labour, helping companies to sustain as they believe that Singaporeans are not willing to serve food, clean sick patients up, clean public places, or be employed in construction work under low wages. Now, why should these jobs be considered not worth higher wages anyway?

There is also a belief by a certain old man that our local population of about 3 million is not enough to produce enough talent. So why doesn’t the country look into ways to cultivate more local talents or appreciating the ones who do exist?

In addition, there is a fraction of Singaporean men who think that Singaporean women are not good enough to become obedient wives who can clean up after them, be their sex slaves or produce enough babies to keep their ‘old naggy parents’ happy so they go to a shop, and they buy a foreign bride. (Note: I have no problems with love marriages between foreigners and locals, but I do have a problem with people buying brides.)

Inevitably, these foreigners bring with them their habits, customs and languages which may sometimes be negatively seen as crude, rude or uncivilised. Due to these habits that are often publicly displayed, they are being ridiculed both online and offline. Just look at Stomp! for example. It has pictures of all sorts of ‘unsightly’ behaviour of foreigners taken and submitted by Singaporeans for all to ridicule and criticise. I have also came across some blog posts and Facebook statuses containing a high level of xenophobia, written with a malicious tone most of the time.

The presence of xenophobia certainly disturbs me.

First of all, it does not solve the issue on hand. Secondly, while most of us are asking our families, friends and the society to recognise us as individuals with our personal preferences, ideologies and way of life, we are discriminating others for who they are just because we do not like the idea that they are here to replace local workers in some sectors or the fact that we do not agree with their behaviour.

In a way, we cannot blame migrant workers for leaving their homelands with the hope of earning more to improve the conditions of their families back home. We cannot blame them or mock them for being themselves or for being different from us. We can only blame the policies made by the government of the day, the prejudices and flawed believe that our ministers and owners of businesses have of Singaporeans, as well as certain groups of people who feel the need to have obedient partners (slaves). Because of all of them, the influx of foreigners will never stop.

Personally, I believe in enforcing minimum wage to make wages equal for both Singaporeans and foreigners. With a minimum wage policy being enforced across the board, companies will have to employ foreigners at the same wage as Singaporeans. In my opinion as a layman (yes I don’t major in economics), this will perhaps help companies to simply employ locals due to convenience and lesser paperwork. This will also result in companies employing on skills and qualifications more than looking into how expensive an employee a candidate may be.

Remember, the migrant workers who are here do not have it going well too. For most of them, their living conditions, wages and rights are rather appalling. They are being exploited for the capitalistic ambitions of companies and corporations here, with the blessings or ‘blissful ignorance’ of the relevant policy makers. They have no intentions of making our lives hard, because they do not know that they are being employed in replacement of some of us.

Although human beings do have the right of preferences, it is strange to hear individuals who do not see the need to conform to the society at large (being submissive and passive citizens) spitting malicious criticisms at these foreigners, asking why they cannot conform to our local standards of civility. It is also very contradicting to hear from some members of the minority groups who have vehemently declared that they have been discriminated and are now discriminating the foreigners for choosing to be themselves.

We should all live and respect each other as human beings and channel that frustration that we have towards specific policies and policy makers and to involve ourselves in making changes possible instead. Most of all, we should look within ourselves and ponder upon whether we will feel good if we are discriminated for being who we are. If the answer is no, then I think we should be more accepting of the habits of others, if their habits do not cause us any harm. Don’t you think so?


6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

wonderful write up there rachel

there is no such thing as race or gender, only two things
there’s nice rational people
and there’s assholes.

thats all to it.

Comment by iamzal

wait till these foreign men/foreign “talent” touch your backside and then they tell you it is alright for them to do so in their own countries.

Comment by m'sia news

You have obviously missed the point.. Again.

Comment by rachelabsinthe

Oh My God! Thank You.

Comment by zed key

Hello, my name is Jonathan and I’m doing a project about the locals’ hostility towards the migrant workers. I agree with your points that the locals in Singapore have a major xenophobic problem. I have a few questions to ask you as you appear to have put much thought into the issue.

1) Do you really believe that many local men would want to do the jobs the migrant workers are doing ‘for us’? If so, why?

2) You have made it clear that you did not major in economics, as such I would like to point out to you that it makes very little business sense for the government to impose a minimum wage. Doing so will raise the costs of production significantly. Inflation is already a pertinent problem in Singapore. Wage policies could apply to Singapore in the future, but right now it simply makes very little sense to make the general price level even higher than it already is.

Your point about how imposing a minimum wage will allow employers to focus more on the skills and qualifications of potential workers makes sense initially, but upon further thought, this does not apply to the issue. The skills and qualifications required for the jobs that a minimum wage would encompass are mostly at the bare minimum. Skill in operation of certain construction tools and machines involves only practice, much of which the migrant workers have more of as compared to the local workers anyway.

3) You believe that the Singaporean government should focus on cultivating local talents or appreciating the ones who do exist. Importing foreign labour is one of the ways the government uses to indirectly cultivate the talent in Singapore. By covering most of the manual labour-type jobs, locals can focus more on skills upgrading and developing talent in more important areas of work such as the skilled labour or services industries.

If a small economy Singapore does not import foreign labour, one again, the cost of production of exports and the shopping malls you enjoy will go up, making it more difficult to show our appreciation for local talents (in terms of salary).

In conclusion, I would like to commend you for having great character and strong beliefs. Your solutions offered here contradict with some the goals you have stated, but I am sure everyone appreciates the effort you put in.

Thank you.

Comment by Jonathan Ng

Hi Jonathan, this is a quick reply but feel free to drop me an email if you want to clarify anything. I have been too busy offline to check my blog sometimes. 🙂

1. I have met, known and heard about people who have been retrenched, are educated but are ‘too old’ to be hired. In order to sustain themselves, they have resorted to applying for jobs such as retail, f&b, cleaning, construction, hospitality, lorry drivers etc but some have not been successful because they have been told that they were Singaporeans. When one is hungry and has to bring food to the table, they can do anything.

2. I may not major in economics but I do have enough knowledge of modes of business operations, various ideologies and have spoken to many foreign business reps and some other people who cannot be named here to know that minimum wage will not make most foreign investors pull out of Singapore. In fact, minimum wage helps mostly the lower income group and will not change things drastically. Having minimum wage will help them cope with the raising cost of living and ensure that they will not be replaced by even cheaper foreign labour.

Many developed and developing countries in the world enforces a minimum wage policy and it does not seem to hurt them much. If business operations have to be so cold and calculative, if governments do not seek to protect Singaporeans against being replaced by cheaper and exploited foreign labour then they do not deserve to be in the government at all. (these are my thoughts offhand and in a rush, apologies if they sound too raw)

3. How does importing foreign students by giving free scholarships to universities here help to cultivate local talent? How does an education system whereby teachers hardly encourage creative thinking, alternative opinions and teach mostly in a top-down approach cultivate talent?

Our talented people have migrated because they do not like the political system here, they do not want their children to grow up in an environment whereby everything is about academic excellence and they do not feel a sense of belonging here. Why? Many factors… one of them is the political suppression of opinions. (not from my own words, our own media publishes such interviews with people who have left this country too)

My point is: I am not saying that we must have a Singaporeans only approach. I do not quite agree with Singaporeans-first approach either but the fact that Singaporeans are being replaced by cheap foreign labour in f&b, cleaning, construction, IT, engineering and various other sectors is disgusting. I do not agree with exploitation of labour, local or foreign and workers must be paid what they are worth. If a cleaner is to be paid an X amount as a starting pay, why then is the cleaner who is a foreigner being paid lesser?

When I was a student wanting to earn some money to support myself, I worked in retail. My friends worked in F&B and some worked temporarily in hotels as receptionists etc. Nowadays, many such places no longer have students. They have foreign staff whose language abilities sometimes does annoy us… as much as I try my best not to be so. No I do not expect them to learn the way we speak but I just do not understand why even in such sectors where you can easily get a pool of Singaporeans to work in, there are still so many foreign labour. The answer: they are cheaper.

So what is the answer to our path here, let this country become a national sweatshop called Singapore Manufacturing Inc.?

Ok gotta run and thanks for sharing your views! 🙂

Comment by rachelabsinthe

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