Thursday, September 14, 2006

Working & Living in ASEAN: Between Foreign Talent and Immigrant Labour – Perspective of a male Singaporean Citizen who has served National Service.

In the era of globalization, barriers to international employment that were once present have been demolished with every new free trade agreement signed, every trans-national treaty acceded to. In this day and age, most wear the badge of a global citizen with pride. International job mobility is perceived as good, and a refusal to be fluid can leave one stuck with the prospect of unemployment and a higher standard of living.

The first speech Dr. Jorgen O. Moller clearly supports the above stance. He particularly raises the example of world-renowned football clubs having a team of international players to support this point. While I am not entirely against what he states in entirety, as I do believe organizations do have the right to seek the best from around so as to meet their operating targets. However, sometimes, probably also due to government encouragement and policy, organizations might be all-too-eager to recruit international talents that they overlook the potential that the local talent pool holds. While international expertise adds the diversity of overseas management experience into the organizational mix, but should an organization be overzealous in its pursuit in the collection of international perspectives in its senior management, it may lose focus on what made it successful in the first place – an innate understanding and awareness of the local ground and needs; which is what the local employees whom has worked their way from ground up possess. Multinational corporations and companies aspiring to go global should never forget that to be successful in business, competency in local market knowledge is often more important than a plethora of diverse opinions from expatriates which might or might not work, due to the differences in cultures.

The second presentation given by Ms Mathi addressed more on the issues of the welfare and well-being of foreign labour in this country. I am in general support of her opinions and views that most of our lower wage earning workers should be treated with more respect and given more welfare, given that they do work that most Singaporeans are unwilling to do, and if we had a less liberal foreign labour policy, chances are that most Singaporean families would be unable to afford a foreign helper at home, or have such well-maintained infrastructure and clean surrounding environments. However, it must be noted that due to the drop in real income of our bottom 30% of families, many Singaporeans have also taken up jobs that are on level with the foreign labour that is employed here. While we should show care and concern to the low-wage foreign workers in Singapore, let us not forget about the low-income families here in Singapore as well, and provide them with equivalent or better welfare to that of the low-wage foreign workers, given that they are our brethrens after all.

I didn’t manage to catch the gist of Mr David Ang’s speech as I was in the washroom for the first half of his speech, and hence I cannot comment on his speech.

In summary, I am all for the need for further economic integration and labour integration of ASEAN. However, let us please do not forget about our own less well-off citizens while society busies itself with the above activities.


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