Contact Singapore not following “Singaporeans first”?

‘Contact Singapore’ or ‘Contact Foreign Talents’? is an interesting post on the revived Temasek Review calling out Contact Singapore as one of the “Govt agencies” which does not reflect a “Singaporeans first” policy that the PAP government has been touting.

Why is it interesting? As part of the Singapore Students Association in Germany (SSAG), an organisation which very much puts Singaporeans first, I have had first-hand contact with the representatives of Contact Singapore (Europe) and I have to say that without their continued support over the past few years we would not have been able to conduct our activities at the scale which we are accustomed to.

Mind you, we’re not some monstrous organisation. SSAG supports as many registered Singapore students across the whole Germany (…Switzerland, and some say even Austria!) as there are in a single batch of a single Engineering course at a single UK university. Which is to say, less than 200. And this includes PhD candidates, Masters’ students like myself, Bachelors’ students and even people on exchange or internship programmes.

That Contact Singapore is supporting our activities does not mean, of course, that we are obliged to stand up and defend them, but I feel everyone deserves a fair trial. Take a look at their wiki page to find out more about what it is they do.

The author/editorial team behind this TR(E) article chose to remain nameless, and pointed out that the ‘targeted’ country being Australia means Australians and Singapore PRs have been given equal footing as Singaporeans. Here’s a quote from the article:

Now, if the fair is overwhelmed by foreign “young talents”, do Singaporeans even have a chance to clinch any interviews? Certainly, we do not see any “Singaporeans first” priority given to Singaporeans here.

The main premise is that they “do not see” Singaporeans being given priority here, and that is because the fair might be “overwhelmed” by “foreign ‘young talents'” which prevent the Singaporeans from “even having a chance” to clinch any interviews.

This assumes, of course, that Singapore is indeed attractive enough for said “foreign ‘young talents'” to want to work in, that the fair will be visited by far more of such people than by Singaporeans studying in Australia, and there is no way for our own local talent to compete with said “foreign ‘young talents’.”

Troubling on several counts. For one, I am sure we have talent to match whatever the Australians can provide, or for that matter, any other countries where Contact Singapore holds such activities. At least on paper we have a highly-skilled workforce – if there is any hiring bias in favour of foreign talent over local talent, it lies with the companies’ HR departments or is a sign of a deficit in the much-vaunted Singaporean education system and has nothing to do with the government “not putting Singaporeans first.” Question the HR departments, question the schools, or ask the Singaporeans why we are not being hired and “foreign talents” are preferred. Why this should be used to criticise the government?

Furthermore, the ad was targeted at ‘young talent’. While it is a reasonable assumption to make that a higher proportion of these will hail from Australia than Singapore, especially since this mail was distributed to Australian fresh graduates according to “STOMPer J.Lee who is currently studying in Australia“, the fair is to be held from 7 to 14 January 2012 at Suntec City Convention Centre, which as I recall is in Singapore. Here is my personal opinion: if the “foreign ‘young talent'” from other countries are willing to fly over to Singapore for a few days, to attend a career fair just to get to meet prospective employers, just to get a chance to be employed in Singapore, let them. In fact they deserve all the support they can get for being so proactive in their job search and responding to the opportunity provided. Would a Singaporean do the same to find work in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia or elsewhere, while treating Singapore as their ‘true home’?

And finally, if Singapore is attractive enough for these talents to want to cross over, why is it not good enough for Singaporeans to want to work, and why are so many Singaporeans choosing to find migrate overseas? Are we too choosy? Or are we just more affected by the long-term realities than “foreign talent” because they can choose not to be invested long-term in Singapore’s future, treating this merely as a place to, uh, SAF? If the latter is true, then why are we giving them so many benefits when they are not as committed to Singapore’s future as we are? This is the real question that needs to be asked.

I have traditionally closed one eye to TR(E) as it is home to some rather radical posters who seem to want to lob verbal abuse and ridicule at anything establishment and enjoy the full benefits of online anonymity without the willingness to stand behind what they say. This constant reference to the 60.1%, PAPigs and so on is getting boring. If you want to say something online, keep it balanced and be honest, and be accountable for it. I use a moniker, but I don’t hide behind it. It’s just easier to build an identity using one word than three.

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3 Responses to Contact Singapore not following “Singaporeans first”?

  1. Terence says:

    @icedwater Can you shed light on what kind of activities does SSAG run over in Germany? I am supposing these activities are run to engage the registered Singapore students, this is my first time coming across a students association such as SSAG.

    • icedwater says:

      Hello Terence,

      what SSAG does is to provide Singapore students with advice on several aspects of student life in Germany. From enquiries about where to learn German before coming, to the conditions in each city that our members know about, to how to look for accommodation for the short term or long term. There are many things here that are different from studying in Singapore, and the SSAG tries to ease the transition and help Singapore students become more independent in the long run. Twice a year we also hold meetings in various cities across Germany to provide Singaporeans with a taste of home, speaking Singlish, making friends or catching up, playing dai dee, and singing Chinese songs. We like to think this makes life easier for them and reminds them they are not alone here, far away from home.

  2. Shen Ting says:

    Oops, only saw this now, clearly have not been following your blog! Some things to say:

    Contact Singapore:
    Pretty mixed bag of experience with them. On one hand, they did host a very nice event at Millennium Gloucester 2 years back, and even paid 50% of travel expenses for non-London people. Claiming the 50% back was somewhat of a hassle though, having to go through their beaureucracy. And then they had some internship programme last year, I applied through them for some opening in A*STAR. They took ages to reply, and when they did they just flatly told me I was rejected. But of course, I had been in contact with the lab after I saw the opening and what they told me was, they were given a list of candidates very late, like 2 months after the application had closed, and then after they replied with their selection, nothing came back, so they were pretty surprised to hear that I got rejected. Nonetheless, I still managed to work there last summer, ha!

    TRE: Much as I don’t like mainstream media, they are pretty much like the mainstream media, even worse, in their biasedness. My recent exchange with TOC, which can be found on my blog, has left me rather sceptical and disillusioned with the whole media scene in Singapore really.

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