Mar 14, 2010

The Strange History of Productivity in Singapore

So the latest buzzword in Singapore is productivity. The ministers are touting it as the next great new idea that will ensure Singapore's survival and success in the future.

This is funny. Because productivity is not a new idea in Singapore. In fact, it is rather old. Back in the 1970s and 80s, productivity was one of our favourite national campaigns (along with the "Speak Mandarin" campaign and the infamous "Stop At Two" family-planning campaign).

Productivity even had its own mascot (known as Teamy the Bee). And it also had its official song that would be aired on radio and TV. The lyrics went something like this:

"Good, better, best,
never let it rest,
If it's good, make it better
If it's better, make it best!"

I still remember it, because I was in primary school then, and it was a simple, catchy tune (the kind that would appeal to young children). By today's standards, the words are very corny. But then the world was a simpler, more innocent sort of place back then.

Anyway, productivity was such a big thing in the 1970s and 80s that it even had its own statutory board. Yes, along with key public institutions such as the HDB, URA, PUB and CPF, we also had .... the NPB! The National Productivity Board.

The purpose of the NPB was to promote practices in Singapore that would lead to increased productivity. A big part of the strategy involved studying the Japanese workforce, who were known for their high standards and productivity.

When did the productivity drive start to dwindle and fade away?

I can't pinpoint an exact date. We know however, that the NPB died in 1996. Parliament repealed the National Productivity Board Act in April that year. From then onwards, the NPB officially ceased to exist.

Around the same time, whether by coincidence or not, Singapore launched its new key strategy for the nation. It was all about getting skilled manpower from overseas to relocate to Singapore. In that same year, the phrase "foreign talent" entered the national vocabulary for the first time.

Well, you know the story from there. As the years passed, "foreign talent" became a looser and looser term.

"Foreign talent" used to mean highly-skilled professionals from overseas, who possessed expertise and knowledge that was scarce in Singapore - people such as cardiac surgeons and university professors.

Then over time, the term "foreign talent" ballooned and expanded. It began to include nurses; engineers; IT system analysts; chefs; soccer players; bus drivers; bankers; construction foremen; salesgirls; junior executives; middle managers; receptionists; photographers, school teachers. Basically every kind of Tom, Dick and Harry. The floodgates were thrown wide open.

In 2006, PM Lee, when making his National Day rally speech, tacitly abandoned the word "talent". He didn't say "foreign talent" anymore; he merely said "foreigners", when referring to the foreigners working and living in Singapore.

It was both honest, and dishonest, of him. Honest, because he was admitting, in his own way, that not all our foreigners were "talented". Many were decidedly mediocre. This was the inevitable result of our strategy of importing as many foreign Toms, Dicks and Harries as we possibly could.

It was dishonest of PM Lee, because he abandoned the word "talent", without expressly pointing out that he was doing so, and without saying why. It was a verbal sleight of hand. Most people didn't spot it. The policy had morphed, from a small-scale initiative to recruit highly-skilled foreigners, to a huge initiative to recruit any foreigner who would put his hand up. PM Lee wanted to admit, and yet not admit, that the policy had changed.

Anyway, the problem with taking too many low-skilled foreigners is that the national productivity goes plummeting straight down. That has happened in Singapore, it has been discussed a lot recently, so I won't go further into it.

Here's to Teamy, our dear old friend. When all else fails, going back to the basics may just work.


Onlooker said...

It basically started after 1997.

The first use of the term FT is actually to cater to the "projected/ expected" Hong Kong skilled immigrants who are supposed to migrate here because of their distrust of the Chinese authority in light of the tian an men incident 1989.

If I remember correctly at that time the MSM publicised that a male hong kong citizen join the national service as a warren officer/officer.

That is also the time the term bochap/kiasu and ugly Singaporean start surfacing to label Singaporeans who were concerned with the sudden turn of event to trivialized their voicing of that concern.

And the most ironic thing is now there is a reverse migration of
Singaporeans into Hong Kong.

And Productivity became a dirty word. Not because it is relevant now but it's basic meanings have been twisted (imo) to suit the need of the incumbent's mouthpiece: the Mediacorp and the straits times.

Anonymous said...

The discussions about productivity and foreigners are so totally irrelevant. Both the PAP and opposition members are shallow to even want to discuss these without looking at fundamentals.

The FT policy is a key TOOL of our economic DIRECTION. Without questioning the model and direction of our economy envisioned by the SCHOLARS, and their mapped route to achieving it, discussing the key TOOLS to the economic model since 1996 unchanged to now is just irrelevant and senseless!

Anonymous said...

The FT policy is NOT the key TOOL of our economic DIRECTION.Anon March 14, 2010 11:11 PM.

GIC/Temasek investment is.

Anonymous said...

The abbreviation "FT" is still widely used in SinLand, albeit morph from original meaning of Foreign Talent to now-pathetic Foreign Trash, all thank to the Lee Family and dynasty.

Anonymous said...

I believe the policy is a right one for a global city but the implementation and the criteria wasn't tight enough.

And I think I recall it was DPM Wong who is supposed to be in charge of it.

Thus far, he hasn't said a thing and also respond to our birth rates is still amongst the lowest in the world.

What would be the root cause/s? I am sure they have mounts of data to point to the reasons.

Anonymous said...

It basically shows that the the ruling party is running out of options/ideas to get this country going. Skills upgrading n productivity is pointless if employers still can tap cheaper sources of labour, from labourers to PMETs. Locals are simply priced out, and such policies are not likely to change anytime soon.

NagyGa1 said...

I think you have a fundamental mistake.

Importing cheap foreign labour is in fact targetting the same thing as the 'increase productivity' slogans. (Which if you ask me are moronic. All businesses are always trying to do that, because that means profit for them. Now can you increase it artificially by a government? Hell no.

Governments are notoriously incompetent and ineffective, really bad on something like productivity.)

To get back to the topic, by importing cheap labour, your costs of production are going down, while the produced goods are staying the same, thus your productivity goes up.

Probably they abolished NPB with the FT policy. But initiatives like NPB can't work, because you can't increase productivity just by deciding to increase it.

It is like saying I decided to increase my salary.


Anonymous said...

Thank You, Mr Wang, for reminding us. I forgot that NPB was in existant before. The Govt is indeed running out of ideas.
And, Yes, PM Lee was not totally honest to admit that the FT scheme has made our mid-level managers at the mercy of foreign companies who pull in their "own people" into S'pore during bad times at their own countries, 1998,2002-2002 etc.I know this, as I was in one of this foreign companies that took in overseas staffs to do work that S'poreans can do.

Anonymous said...

Great article Mr Wang.
Teamy the Bee is simple, friendly, encouraging and brings on a smile. "Productivity" seems to imply you are not working smart and hard short, not good enough.

Anonymous said...

Regardless, productivity is an important basic in any economy... We are just moving back to basics...

The Government is also signaling that it is going to remove cheap labor, so in order to up the same amount of output, productivity must increase for those who are still here (Singaporeans, PRS and those who are allowed to stay).

I believe foreign workers/ talent is a fundamental sore point, which could influence the next election, and so they must be 'solved'/ reduced. They are also a factor that pushed up the housing/ property market.

Less human resources with the same or more output means more productivity... question is how and if these new measures could work, and how fast....

Property price would start to come down... with less people.

Alan Wong said...

Frankly if they are dead serious about improving the productivity of Singaporeans, they should start with those deadwood in the Prime Minister's Office.

Incidentally why do we need so many Ministers in the PM's Office besides the 2 SMs and 1 MM that cannot be carried out by DPMs and the other Ministers in the Cabinet. Are they required so that the PM can concentrate on more unproductive activities ?

Lim Swee Say should really start to rally our Prime Minister to be "cheaper, faster and better" before telling us on how to be more productive !

It's a real joke that our Prime Minister need so many helpers including his father to do the job for him. It's not as if they are doing a great job afterall.

Anonymous said...

Anon 14 March 11:11pm

Yes. Singapore is still in the manufactyring mentality. Even the all "new" health sciences/bio sciences "hub" is about manufacturing drugs more than researching new drugs and deeper drug/cell knowledge to sell consultancy.

We used to recognise Masters degrees. But 1990+, civil service removed the auto-promotion/increment for masters qualification. Effectively killing off the motivation to improve yourself after Bachelors.

Look at our Unis. ALL of them are into undergradate degrees. NONE of them are Masters/PhD reputable. The local Masters segment which has been destroyed by the Civil Service policy, is made up by giving scholarships to (again) foreigners. Check NUS/NTU/SMU website and you will find more scholarships for foreigners than Singaporeans for Masters and PhD.

In the past decade when Singapore was growing the financial sector, NUS and NTU (before there was SMU) was taking about 300 students in Business each, pushing many students to Engineering, Programming and Science. End up, we import every piece of crap from overseas who cannot compare to our own talents. Maybe they needed to sabotage Singaporeans so they can get performance bonus for relative success of FT policy, which if faced with competition from Singaporeans will sink with the lousy foreign quality.

Then the scholars pushed the blame to us. Saying Singaporeans "have no talent", then explaining recession as "structural unemployment" when they have been restricting oppportunies to begin with!

And now, after a decade of just maintaining the system, they have no idea how Singapore's economy should go. So back to productivity.

If we stick to manufacturing, no matter high end or low end, we will lose. There is no way we can fight China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand for costs.

Are we going for a different economic structure? Are we going to leverage on our high knowledge base? Are we going to jump the curve to decisively hold political control of the region through becoming a knowledge/social base for the region?

Looking at the confusion and mother of all general statements in this year's budget, apparently not!

Anonymous said...

Frankly if they are dead serious about improving the productivity of Singaporeans, they should start with those deadwood in the Prime Minister's Office.

Get real. They just created "Vice Principle (Admin)" like 3 years ago to put your usual uncompetitive retiring SAF officers who cannot find a job in the private and even public sectors!

Anonymous said...

The papist leegime has chosen the easy way out to drive the economy by importing huge numbers of foreigners since the late 90's. Ordinary Singaporeans did not benefit. Driving the economy thru productivity improvements is more difficult thought this is the surest way to improve the lives of the ordinary people.
The papist leegime is just not up to the task to improve productivity in Singapore. They have tried for many years but failed. They will fail again. So all these claims that they are the best are bullshits.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

"To get back to the topic, by importing cheap labour, your costs of production are going down, while the produced goods are staying the same, thus your productivity goes up."

No ... The analysis goes like this.

Let's say that to accomplish a certain task, a company could either employ 1 highly productive Singaporean, or 5 low-skilled foreigners (at the same cost).

Because the cost is the same and the task gets done either way, it doesn't really matter to the company whether it hires 1 Singaporean, or 5 foreigners.

However, it matters to the Singaporean. Because he needs the job. Also, if he is productive enough, he can (theoretically) earn the aggregate salary of the 5 foreigners.

Now, if the government starts choking off the company's easy access to foreign workers (eg by limiting the number of employment passes or work permits, or by increasing the levy), then the company is going to tend towards hiring the Singaporean.

However, it becomes necessary for the Singaporean to improve his own productivity, so that he can accomplish the work of the 5 low-skilled foreigners.

This doesn't necessarily mean that the Singaporean must work harder and harder. It does mean that the Singaporean must work smarter and smarter, eg using better technology; eliminating unnecessary work; improving processes etc.

If you look carefully at productivity case studies, you'll see that massive productivity gains can result from quite simple steps. I've heard of one bank in the past which reduced its time for processing credit-card applications, from an average of two weeks, down to two or three days. This wasn't achieved by making people work harder or faster, but simply by studying the entire process, eliminating unnecessary steps, and combining certain parts of the process into a single step.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Wang,

That is right... Well put indeed... Business Process Improvement is one way...

An in-thing of the 90s...

Its about about continuous improvements to current processes and finding better ways to do things...

And every economy is still about improving output/ productivity... more for less... so its not old wine in new bottle.

Its a fundamental basic.

Many are still angry with policies, etc...and we expect solid bullet-proof policies from the salary these guys are getting.

But from the bigger schemes of things, would we rather be like our neighbouring countries?

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Wang,

That is right... Well put indeed... Business Process Improvement is one way...

An in-thing of the 90s...

Its about about continuous improvements to current processes and finding better ways to do things...

And every economy is still about improving output/ productivity... more for less... so its not old wine in new bottle.

Its a fundamental basic.

Many are still angry with policies, etc...and we expect solid bullet-proof policies from the salary these guys are getting.

But from the bigger schemes of things, would we rather be like our neighbouring countries?

And I also agree there are simply too many SMs around.... Maybe they need a credible person to head each GRC...

Anonymous said...

Also, if he is productive enough, he can (theoretically) earn the aggregate salary of the 5 foreigners.

OR the Gov takes steps to reduce Singaporean costs of living (transport, HDB price, rental -> substitute costs for HR, electricity, daily nec, education, health, GST, costs of hiring government civil service, ...) to allow the Singaporean worker to reduce his MINIMUM WAGE to SURVIVE, then even no productivity improvement will give the Singaporean cost advantage.

Why is nobody talking about costs of Singaporean living?

Anonymous said...

if productivity is key, then i think the pap hasnt been v productive. they need that many people to figure out 'fundamentals' like this? Plus they command skyrocketing salaries. where is THEIR productivity?

Anonymous said...

Nice article Mr Wang. That brings back memories...

If you can also remember, the NPB building is located at Bukit Merah Central, not far away from the Bukit Merah Bus Interchange.

HaveAHacks said...

Actually, what killed the "productivity" movement was the switch to services rather than manufacturing. Not all the govt's fault of course - many Singaporeans considered manual work beneath them and the elite also didn't want to get their hands dirty. Unfortunately services are famously unproductive because employers do not measure their outputs or inputs properly. If we had stuck to manufacturing we would ironically been far more productive because manufacturers are exposed to foreign competition so they work harder to be competitive.

And even now, many white-collar commentators urging productivity think that it is somebody else's (the "workers'") problem, when actually the problem is with management itself.

Haha ! good point about the 3rd vice-principal (admin). That's a classic example of the govt saying "Follow what I say, not what I do"

Anonymous said...

Qui Bono? (Who benefits?) Immigration has costs as well as benefits.

Perhaps there is this belief that the fate of the gods are far-removed from those of lesser mortals.

Anonymous said...

We used to recognise Masters degrees. But 1990+, civil service removed the auto-promotion/increment for masters qualification. Effectively killing off the motivation to improve yourself after Bachelors.

Because some wonderful bugger up there refuse to take responsibility to say which Master/PhD is good and which is not. See all the private schools screwing up with University of Timbaktu degrees offered by the dozen?

Ironically is we have established an accredited list, like the EU NARIC, Australian AEI, American NACAC systems, we would have been the ONLY consultants the entire region if not Asia can go to for structuring their education segment.

The amount of money from consultancies we could have earned. The political clout we could have commanded.

Cut the scholars' pay. And they will now be willing to innovate and make decisions without so much to lose and more to gain!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Wang,

Just to add to the history. NPB died in 1996. In it, PSB (or Singapore Productivity and Standards Board) was formed by merging NPB and SISIR (Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research). The reason for this is due to Paul Krugmen's essay on Myth on Asian Productivity, which subsequently led to the fall of Thai Baht and cause the 1996 Asian Financial crisis. I vaguely remember the key catchphrase in PSB then was 4-3-7. Think it is 4% GDP growth, 3% productivity growth,and then 7% ???.

Somewhere somehow it seems like PSB is no more driving productivity and deviates away from it. And now we have SPRING, which has the word productivity in it but never preaches it.

Anonymous said...

its just so typical of straits times to 'report' 'improvements' after the political parties rant about productivity, etc, etc. its as if the political party need to show 'evidence' that they did something to 'improve' the system. just last week, they were 'ranting' about low productivity and today straits times report first rise in 2 years. which story is it?

Anonymous said...

Nick Leeson.

Foreign Talent or mere foreigner?

Anonymous said...

I think this article sums it all up...Its from Government department though so those "Dislike Government Extremists" may think there is hidden agenda and I could be a licker

I think productivity would be measured differently this time round... Innovation for one is one that needs to be captured.

Anonymous said...

No discussion really touches the heart of the FT influx without mentioning Free Trade Agreement and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The real sellout: FTA

Global Trends by Martin Khor
Monday 10 Sept 2007
New warnings on FTAs

Anonymous said...

Don't believe the government shills who claim the government made mistakes with FT policy and are now shutting the floodgates.

More foreigners are coming. Their actions tell the whole story.

Business Times
Published March 4, 2010
Singapore-EU FTA talks kicking off on Monday,4574,375077,00.html%3F+fta+singapore&cd=9&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=sg&client=firefox-a

Anonymous said...

Productivity < Innovation. Faster, better, cheaper and different. Shouldn't we move on to innovation rather than productivity?

How productive (innovative) one wants to be depend on him = change in attitude. If the focus of our education system is to get result and be perfect, it is short term and will not develop into an innovative culture.

bringing in Foreign workers reduces cost, therefore reduce price not equal to increase in productivity.

Singapore has no natural resources and if it gets more expensive to operate, corporations will leave. Either we stop and see why we are so expensive or re-invent ourselves to make us relevant.

But for the smart and wealthy, the WORLD is the stage and waiting to see what is going to happen in SIngapore in 10 years or more is a personal RISK. Government must make us believe that we are CITIZENS and we will be taken care of like citizen should or there will be no reason to stay except for the sentimental ones, for the smart and wealthy.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of short-term and longer term issues...

To educate ourselves and be more informed (if we care to understand in more detail), we could perhaps put some of the problems in a the long term buckets.

Much as I could see, the education system has been transforming, albeit some of us may still claim to be insufficient. this is a medium to longer term issue.

Immediate is also to make sure there is GDP growth, jobs, etc, put food on the table so we could have our fill and find energy to think and for some gripe...;)

I heard there is a work, live and play in NZ thing going on now... Perhaps some of us could go there and experience it and share it here.

Anonymous said...

Something I saw else where. A good reply to SPRs complaining they don't get "fair" standing applying to our Universities. I hope they have guts to send this out.

Admission to the University is based on academic merit and open competition among all eligible applicants for the courses of their preference. We do find Singaporeans more adapted to Singapore systems and way of life. Singaporeans also tend to stay committed to the service of the nation, standing resolute with the nation through good and bad times. It is with such consideration that Singaporeans are strictly more competitive as opposed to PRs and non-Citizens in their application to the University

Anonymous said...

It can't be totally innovation also... because innovation has no guarantee of success...

In the mean time, we still need output of goods and services people in other parts of the world need and would pay money for...

Its all about survival...Different policies for different situtations...

Is there a silver bullet?

Anonymous said...

The influx of cheaper foreign labour helps businesses to expand faster and bigger than ever. One typical example is the salons that employs all Malaysian/ China hairstylists and therapists, and they are able to open 50 branches in such a short time and make big profits. Same thing goes with BreadTalk and all the franchises. This contributes to the % growth in GDP and the wealth of this small group of people. However, guess this group of pple is too small to make a difference in the vote counts?

Now they say it is the pple's fault for not having enough babies. So in order to help ourselves, we got to increase productivity, such that 1 person does 2 or 3 persons' jobs, just like how the Japanese does it. Now isn't what we are already doing? Will this end up with more overtime, weekends OT, and no time for making babies again? Guess they are going to say, "See, you don like foreigners. We gave you chance to improve and baby bonus. but singaporeans still can't increase productivity and we still don have enough babies. Guess the import solution is still the fastest and most effective." Period.

Anonymous said...

LSS's idea of Better productivity is to make you Cheaper and ask you to run Faster. He hasn't had a clue on the how but insist that you need to go faster -- worry about direction later I guess. If you do 100 meters in 10 seconds, he would say you need to make it 5, or else he and the old man would make sure that the spurs are stuck in your ass.

Anonymous said...

How to increase productivity when the pap government is not prepared to unshackle the bondage of the people. A slave will always thinks, acts and works like one. Where is the intrinsic motivation to do better, to excell.
Same with the corporates. So long as they are well supported by the government, which businessman will want to change the system ? Where is the spurs to create and innovate ?

Anonymous said...

If the problem is that we don't have enough babies, why is it that the government keeps importing adults? Wouldn't that make the situation worse in the future?

I am dying of dehydration, please give me some crackers!

Anonymous said...

"If the problem is that we don't have enough babies, why is it that the government keeps importing adults?"

LOL. Because these imported adults make babies. Look at the most recent statistics of new PR/foreigner babies vs Singaporean babies. Then you know who are working hard procreating.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

I already explained this before.

Importing adult foreigners does not address the baby issue.

Why? Because the adult foreigners worsen the aging population issue.

In 30 years, you'll see that Singapore has a huge proportion of old folks - and a significant proportion of those old folks will the adult foreigners we take in today.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering how many of the commentators are business owners especially SMEs and have tried hiring workers for their companies and how many are employees working for MNCs, GLCs and banks.

Speaking as a SME business owner, it is a heartache trying to hire Singaporeans. We even have cases where locals accepted the job offer but do not even turn up for work after that and do not even bother to let us know.

Many want to work only on 5 day weeks, near their homes, air-cond office environment, no traveling, no overtime, long leave preferably 21 days and above, high salary, big titles and the list of demands goes on.

Just be prepared to pay more for everything in future when all the foreigners are restricted from coming here to work. Then we will have another round of complaints on why cost of living is going up. Already the nursing homes are complaining that their cost will go up with the increase in levees and they will have to charge more unless they get more subsidy from the government.

For those of you with maids, send them home and help the cause. Do your house work and look after your kids yourselves so that your productivity level goes up by juggling work and family life and save money at the same time. Or are we being selective in saying we want the maids but the Banglas are not welcomed ?

Realistic ?

Anonymous said...

I would also add that there are two sides to a coin. Look from the business owners point of view as well before thinking we are the blood suckers that try to exploit the workers at every opportunity.

It takes two hands to clap. Workers also must be receptive to working harder to be paid more or to go for upgrading to do more. Many expect to be paid more just because they have gone for additional courses forgetting that to pay them more, the company has to make more also. If the SMEs close shop, it is not only the owners who will lose, workers will be out of jobs as well and many of these workers are Singaporeans, albeit the older ones. Why older ones ? Many younger Singaporeans don't want to work for SMEs because they think there is no future working for SMEs and would rather work for MNCs.

How wonderful it would be for many of you to own and run your own business to have a taste of the problems we face rather than just complain ?

SME owner

Anonymous said...

To SME Owner:

Minister Khaw said, if you are going on costs competition, then Batam and JB is cheaper.

If not, then should you not, as the owner and senior management, sit down and look at your business model, attempt to become a MNC rather than stay as an SME and kpkb about locals only?

Anonymous said...

To SME Owner,

I assume that your are a Singaporean. If you are a worker, would you accept a job at the level of pay that you pay to foreign workers (FW)? The root cause of the problem is the government's policy that allow Singapore to be flooded with FW's. The more we "progress" in this direction, the worse it is for the average Singaporeans. Your children / grandchildren / friends and relatives are all potential victim of such "progress" created by PAP.

Anonymous said...

Productivity means super pay and some more pay for less hard work. They really work very smart!

This one no change, unless PAP is voted out.

Anonymous said...

To: SME Owner,

I can understand how you feel but if you look back before we have all these FW's, we didn't seem to have such problem with the Singaporean workers. In fact they were voted to be world best etc. and the progress we had made and the reserves we had created were unprecedented. You competitors had to hire Singaporean workers just like you did, so there was no issue. In fact workers are more focus on productivity and you look after the workers because you want to retain them. So everybody has a piece of the cake and all is well.

I think the three mean overhead costs of doing business are facilities, labour and utilities. We pay the world's highest rent and utilities which the government is happy to collect. In return they allow you to exploit the FW's at the expense of Singaporeans. Many of these FW's would become PR and citizen so they too would get a share of the reserves we had built over time. GIC and TH lost a whole bunch of it but that's another story.

Anonymous said...

"A big part of the strategy involved studying the Japanese workforce, who were known for their high standards and productivity."

Hahaha.......oh really. I bet they've never really worked with the Japanese before then...

Anonymous said...

When any foreign talent comes to Singapore to work, s/he demands less wage and do not mind to work for a longer hour.
Singaporeans are now short changed then .Would anybody wants to work as hard as before if s/he is being short changed?
Since price of all goods inflates but wage (wage even goes down), why care more? Work and give the employer the bare minimum will do. Practise taiji while working. Let the mouth do the working.
Productivity? Who actually cares?
This is part of the game.

Anonymous said...

Kbkb about locals ? Out of the 20 staff we have, only one is a Myamese, a civil engineering graduate. We have good local staff. Unfortunately, we cannot get more because locals do not want the jobs. If like what Mr Wang says one local can replace 5 Banglas, we would gladly hire that local at an even higher salary than the 5 Banglas combined for sure. When we make more, we share. My staff get bonus twice a year in July and Jan. before CNY and many have been with us for more than 5 years.

If I look at my business model and become an MNC, I will be out of S'pore because cost is too high. People who do not run their own business will appreciate our problems. They probably also do not realise that the SMEs are the biggest employers as a group.

I have nothing against the 4 months maternity leave. But for SMEs, invariably one person handles many portfolios. For a critical staff to be away for 4 months would be more than a burden for the company. Yes the government pays the 4th month. We would rather pay them an additional month on top of that to come back to work earlier. Good staff is difficult to get and even harder to retain.

Some of you are right. No point kpkb. At the end of the day, the individual SME owner will close shop if it is no longer viable for them to survive and even have to plead with your employees to work overtime.

It is no longer like the good old days. Work hard first then the company will pay you more. Now, it is pay me more first then I decide whether I want to work for you. But to be fair, there are still good and hardworking people around. Only not enough of them.

But what the heck, I will be out of this rat race soon enough and don't have to kpkb anymore. For the rest of you, you are on your own.

SME Owner

Anonymous said...

"Locals are simply priced out, and such policies are not likely to change anytime soon." From anon on March 15, 2010 9:42 AM.

You are right about it. The lowest pay an FT can accept to fulfill the employment pass is $1800. That's the pay they asked and no cpf too.

If you are local with years of experiences, retrenched, have family,jobless for many months or years, in your forties or fifties, desperate for a job, you will have no choice but to accept even lower than $1800, for the same type of works.

That's what happen to me now. Doing the same job at less than $2K. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

But thanks to our MIW. We have phd-taxi-driver plus many experienced but old-graduates doing low-level job just to survive.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that everybody is complaining? The SME Owners are complaining, the workers are complaining, and the government is complaining even more! They demand that the spurs be stuck in your ass for good! Otherwise you die your problem!

Something is seriously wrong with the formula. The future for our next generation is bleak. We were promised Swiss standard of living by our million$$$ ministers but it is becoming quite clear now we are sinking back into the 3rd world.

Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as the best workforce or most hardworking or most efficient workforce in the world.

We live in a world where most people swear by the motto of "It-is-still-not-good-enough".

Improvement in technology or efficiency or productivity only leads to increase in work load and expectations.

We are able to do things much faster and cheaper today compared to ten years ago, due to better technology. Yet, we would still consider a worker of today to be inefficient or lazy, due to the increased expectations.

Singaporean workers on the whole put in more hours than most workers anywhere in the world. Yet, bosses still complain that Singaporeans are lazy and have attitude problem.

If that is true, then logically, it should be the China or India or Filipino workers who are the most hardworking in the world. But yet, life in my toilet is better than life in their own countries back home.

Strange, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

It is no longer like the good old days. Work hard first then the company will pay you more. Now, it is pay me more first then I decide whether I want to work for you.

This is starting to sound like what those guys in the coffeeshops have been saying about scholars and ministars...

Monkey see, monkey do I guess. Follow the leadership?

Anonymous said...

The more we progress, the worse we become. Life is hard enough. MIW made it 100 times worse because of their desire to possess 100 times more than what they need and deserve!

Anonymous said...

Quote fm Mr Wang
"In 30 years, you'll see that Singapore has a huge proportion of old folks - and a significant proportion of those old folks will the adult foreigners we take in today."

We would/should not give citizenship to majority of foreigners who work here. Even if PR is given, PR renewed every few years if they have a job. If the foreigner is jobless, terminate the PR and the foreigner will leave singapore and retire somewhere else.
Then aging population is reduced.

Anonymous said...

What follows is my own philosophy and not directed at anyone in particular :

There are 2 rules I subscribe to :

1. No one owes me a living.
2. There is no free lunch.

Life is like running on a treadmill. If you don't run on the same speed, you fall off. If you can, you adjust the speed higher or you are content on running at the same speed.

Why do we send our children for tuition classes ? Because we want them to do better than their peers and maybe win that scholarship.
Why is Mr Wang in London ? Because if he passes the course and the next, he is eligible to be promoted.
Do you compare and buy cheaper products when you go shopping ? Silly question. Do bosses hire Foreign workers or younger staff because they want to make more money ? Another silly question.

To survive in this competitive world, you need to have an edge or advantage over your peers. If you stay in the same job and career for 20 years without having some special skill or additional training, is it any wonder you will be retrenched when times are bad ? It used to be perfectly normal to stay in the same job for years on end without having to upgrade but not anymore. Why then do people think and plan for upgrading their apartments so meticulously but do not put a thought into upgrading their qualifications and careers ?

You may have your demons in the foreign worker. The bosses have theirs in the cheap imports from China, both products and workers.
So everyone of us have our challenges. If the company closes, at worst, you lose your job. The bosses may become bankrupt. So don't envy them.

Your career and destiny lie in your hands. Either run faster or get off the treadmill by downgrading. The choice is yours and only you can decide. Not deciding is also a choice because by default, someone will decide for you.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 1:31pm
You are brain washed by MIW!

I believe in giving others a hand when they are down. You don't have to stress yourself so hard trying to beat everyone else all the time. A gracious society is one that helps each other out than beating each other to death!

Anonymous said...

@Anon 1:31PM
Life doesn't have to be like running on a treadmill. When you are tired or sick, do take a break. No one would blame you or eat you up in a snap. You can afford to take it a little easier. You don't have to stress yourself like that. It is bad for your health.

This IS free lunch if you know where to look. Use it when you need it but don't abuse it!

The Thong Chai Charity show we had last night raised more than $8M. I don't suppose they got a single cent from you! If you believe in "there is no free lunch", surely we can't expect you to support those "stupid" people who provide free health care!

Anonymous said...

Hi Anon 1:31pm.

I don't believe in free lunches either. That's why even though I served NS, I won't die for Singapore. Not for the pittance I was paid. I don't get free lunches. Neither would I give out free lunches.

Singapore doesn't owe me a living. I don't owe Singapore a living either. At the first sign of trouble, I can just pack up. Or I can just use the weapon I get during reservist to make you and your kids serve as my human shield.

Selfish little creep! The word 'selfish' is written all over your post. I can't imagine how Singpaore will turn out, if more people think just like you.

Anonymous said...

I am anon 1.31pm

Have you seen more self-presumptuous and self-righteous comments ?

Where in the post do you see me saying don't help others ? As is stated clearly, the choice is yours and yours alone. Help yourself first before helping others. If you want to share what little you have with the less fortunate, good for you. The world would be a better place and I mean it in all sincerity.

We even have someone presuming that he/she gives more than me to charity and that I am more selfish than him/her. Well I won't kill myself trying to convince you.

Those of you who fly would be most familiar about the drill on oxygen mask dropping down during an emergency. Did the air crew not mention that you should put on the mask yourself first before helping a child ? There must be a reason for this ?

Granted, there will always be people who are less fortunate than us. We should count our blessings, not our misfortunes. You live life the way you want as long as you are at peace with yourself. It is not for me to pass judgment. If you decide to pass judgment on me, that is your choice.

Anonymous said...

"Not all the govt's fault of course - many Singaporeans considered manual work beneath them and the elite also didn't want to get their hands dirty."

Not true. It is because manual work is not valued as much. No minimum wage and the shortest cut is to import cheap labour which is allowed here, hence suppression of wage & quality of work.

Locals who higher cost structure can easily be out-beaten by cheaper imports, hence the loss of competence in such manual work will keep on perpetuating by itself.

In the long run, even employers will doubt our own locals even if they want to try or start out to do manual work as readily available pool of foreigners is always there for easy selection.

In some countries, minimum wage and trade guilds are there to ensure protection of their own countrymen.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon March 22, 2010 1:31 PM

No one owes anyone a free lunch.

The problem is that some people are precisely living on the taxes that we collectively pay and whose roles do not seem to value add other than to tell us that they do.

Are you one of them.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Wang,

is it true that whatever the government can do, I can do more?

Does it stand to reason that the proxy has far more limited powers than myself?

SMS said...

We do not have natural resources, only human resource and a money-creating land mass measuring.

Cheap housing is gone - stop dreaming.

How to improve productivity - what productivity when the manufacturing are also gone :(

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Wang,

Irrelevant but I recall the corny "Productivity" ditty as follows...

At work or at play, night or day,
If what you do is good (Good)
If what you do is only good,
then try to make it better (Better),
Better or the best!

Good, better, best,
never let it rest.
Till your good is better,
and your better, best.
To achieve the best,
let that be your quest,
Through productivity,
(for a) Better, safer, healthier life.