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Monday, August 18, 2008

PM Speech: On Internationalization & New Immigrants (Ch Speech)

Foreign workers and new immigrants

8. On top of cost of living pressures, Singaporeans also feel the pressure from foreign workers and new immigrants

a. Some say that foreign workers and new immigrants take away jobs for Singaporeans and depress wages
b. NTUC has given me the same feedback
c. There has been hot debate on this in Lianhe Zaobao, with some advocating “pro-local” policies
d. I can understand these sentiments

9. I want to reassure Singaporeans that

a. The Government’s responsibility is to Singaporeans. Our duty is to improve the lives of Singaporeans
b. We allow in foreign workers and new immigrants because doing so will benefit Singaporeans

10. Our economy has become more vibrant and diversified because of foreign workers. Without their participation, there will not be enough Singapore workers to grow the economy

11. Our problem is not enough workers

a. Our unemployment rate is only 2.3% - considered by economists to be full employment
b. Elderly workers have also found it easier to find employment
c. This shows that foreign workers have not taken away the rice-bowl of Singaporeans, but have instead helped to enlarge the pie.

12. Let me give some practical examples.

a. The two IRs will need another 20,000 workers. They will not be able to recruit Singaporeans to fill all these positions. In fact, they would not have decided to invest here had we required them to recruit only Singaporeans
b. Foreign finance specialists help us to grow our financial centre. London and New York are global financial centres because they draw talent from all over the world. Tokyo is in a lower league because it does not have the same draw
c. Foreign workers keep many SMEs in business, by lowering their cost. Without them, local workers and SME bosses will also lose their jobs

13. Outside of economics, foreign talent also strengthen our ranks in sports

a. Out of 25 Singaporean athletes participating in the Beijing Olympics, half of them are new Singapore citizens
b. China has 1.3 billion people, we have 4 million. Based on populations, China would have to win 300 medals before Singapore has the chance to win a single medal. So we cannot rely on only local talent
c. Our performance at the Beijing Olympics demonstrates this. We now have Tao Li reaching the swimming finals and the Table-Tennis team playing for either Gold or Silver in the finals tonight
d. Because we welcome talent, we can compete above our class. So we can all take pride in Team Singapore, and cheer for our athletes
e. Team Singapore all the way!

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