“On the individual level, Mr Lee stressed the importance of being self-reliant and working together to build a better tomorrow.”

Self reliant is the right motto.

I totally agree with PM on the need to be self reliant. The reliant mentality can lead to passivity and a lack of drive and energy to work. In countries with unemployment benefits, which can outweigh the wages one can earn, it is tempting to slack and cruise along.

But while we want society to be structured in such a way that most people cannot afford to sit at home doing nothing, government must ensure that the conditions are conducive for most people to be gainfully employed.

My personal struggle

Since 2012, I resigned to look after my second child for one year. But during those twelve months helping to handle two kids, I never stopped looking for a new job. I applied specifically to areas that I had specialized since 2004.

Initially I restricted my search to Singapore so that the family can grow together. After futile attempts, I started looking at other countries as well.

The job search for one year was a revelation in many ways.

The harsh reality in Singapore

First, sending CVs to recruiters in Singapore was like throwing coins into a black hole, except for an automated reply confirming receipt.

In some cases, recruiters do call back but went quiet after a while. I kept seeing the same jobs been advertised months after months. Perhaps I was applying on my own merits, hence I had been unsuccessful  I thought.

I thickened up and started checking and applying through known contacts. Some doors do open but not wide enough for me to get through for an interview.

In cases where I did get an interview, the recruiters showed common traits. They did not study my CVs and asked questions that revealed their lack of interest in me. Some even plucked standard questions from google search showing a total lack of preparation to interview me.

Locally, some HR reply will say ” if you do not hear from us within a month, you are deemed unsuccessful”. So what do you expect the applicant to do during those weeks?

Greener pastures elsewhere?

Both private and public recruitment processes were a dismay compared to Australia. The Aussies were prompt to reply, even if it was a tailored standard reply to everyone. But I really appreciated that they were quick to inform that I would not be considered within two weeks, so I knew better to move on and look further. Some were even quick to offer detailed explanations why I was not chosen, and even shared the names of managers who declined my application, and why they had chosen to go with another candidate.

Comparing Aussies and here, there was another distinct feature. For most jobs in Australia, you have to become a PR first. The process starts with a skill assessment by appointed bodies, that can take 3 months or more. Concurrently, you need to sit for English exams at the British Council testing your reading, listening and writing ability, even if you had obtained A1 for GP at A Level. With both in place, then you can apply for PR. If granted, you need to fulfill a minimum stay period. Spouse and children can go along, and children get free education at public schools.

Putting Singaporeans first

Coming back to PM’s point on self reliant, I reiterate my agreement.

But a system that puts a burner on everyone’s back to nudge them forward needs to be complemented by policies that put Singaporeans first. Is it unreasonable to give priorities to Singaporeans? Is it in any way non-democratic if we put Singaporeans first? Will the economy collapse if we lean towards Singaporeans? After all, Singaporeans are the electorate right?

A happy and contented nation can also be one that is creative and competitive.

I am not saying we do not need foreigners or foreigners are all bad. But we need talented foreigners that complement Singaporeans, not those with fake certificates and undercut our local workforce.  Are we bringing in the right people?

Investment without jobs creation

Consider high net worth investors who parks wealth and family here.

The bosses spend little time in Singapore and the office is hardly staffed. There is little employment opportunities for Singaporeans.

Consider even MNCs which set up shop here to enjoy lower tax rate. The entire marketing team can be moved to Singapore, with little room to hire more Singaporeans. Many MNCs would claim the need to bring in experienced hires with networks. But what about the highly qualified Singaporeans here? Surely they can be capable enough to be trainable?

I went from public to private within 6 months, and an entrepreneur a year later. The learning curve was steep but not insurmountable. I was given the opportunities and I did well outside Singapore.

But in Singapore today, are the MNCs granting opportunities to Singaporeans?

Hopes or hopeless

For me personally, after searching in vain for one year, there was a point that I was resigned to becoming a taxi driver, fishmonger or a tuition teacher. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying these jobs are too lowly for me. It’s just that I would not be playing my strengths in these jobs, not doing justice to my engineering degree, three years in public sector, six years in China as a trader.

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if I should have relocated my family back to Singapore at all.

Normally I would not like to share the difficulties I faced above. It is not a glorious page. But I know I must speak up, not for myself, but for the Singaporeans out there who are unemployed, raising kids, supporting parents, and are feeling angry, desperate and forsaken by the country.

The motto of self reliant needs to be supported by safety nets. The glass ceilings need to be broken down, now.


Chin Wei