Singaporeans come first
in employment and education
I believe that many Japanese people living in Singapore paid close attention to the speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally 2011 last month.
While the national theme for 2010 was the "Singapore Sprit", which was catalyzed by the excitement of the country staging the world's first Youth Olympics, the theme this year could well be "Singaporeans come first."
The Prime Minister's speech charted the government's direction and measures for the next 12 months in the fields of education, housing, transport and foreign talent.
He addressed rising concern among Singaporeans that jobs available in the country were unfairly taken away by foreigners by announcing changes in the employment of foreigners.
These changes are targeted more at middle-level employees who hold the S Pass and EP. For this category of employees, the monthly income level required to apply for the S Pass and EP would be increase.
For the Q1 type of EP, the required monthly salary would be S$3,000, up from the current S$2,800. For the P2 type, it would be S$4,500, up from S$4,000. The P1 type would remain as it is, that is, S$8,000.
In addition, the educational background and criteria will be tightened up for new foreigners applying for employment visas.
These measures are meant to reduce the dependency on foreigners and to boost Singaporeans' prospect for employment and will take effect in January 2012.
But PM Lee insisted that the new measures do not mean that Singapore is turning xenophobic or rejecting non-Singaporeans.
On education, he gave the assurance that 2,000 more university places would be added by 2015, all of which would be reserved for Singaporeans.
We have to respond to the new measures, which would surely have an impact on us, by taking the necessary action to minimize their negative impact.
Frankly speaking, I cannot help taking my hat off to the Singapore government for its swift action in increasing the required salary for employment pass, bearng in the mind that the previous increase was only applied in July 2011.
It is not easy to be one step ahead. However, we need to catch up with the pace of change in this small country.