The percentage of Indian professionals working in Singapore has drastically increased from 13% in 2005 to 26% in 2020. The reason for the rise of Indian nationals can be attributed to the global trend of demand and supply for tech talent.
Because of the economic slowdown caused due to the coronavirus pandemic, many Singaporeans have lost their jobs. The locals have blamed the Singapore government and its free trade agreement, known as Comprehensive Economic Co-operation Agreement (CECA) signed with India in 2005.
The free trade agreement has become a point of dissension between the locals and the Singapore government as they believe Indian nationals have been given an upper edge and stolen jobs from them.
The government made its stand clear when Manpower Minister Tan See Leng validated the figures and told the Parliament that Indian Employee Pass (EP) holders have increased from 13% to 26%. The government added that this was not because of favorable treatment but due to global technology demand instead. An Employment Pass is a document that allows foreign professionals, managers, and executives to work or take up a job in Singapore. There are other types of passes as well- S pass for mid-level skilled staff; Work Permit for semi-skilled foreign workers in the construction, manufacturing, marine shipyard, process, or services sector; and Work Permit for foreign domestic workers.
Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said, “The increase was driven by the rapid growth of Singapore’s digital economy and finance, as well as trends in the global demand and supply for tech talent, and not because Indian nationals are given 'favourable treatment'."
He also gave a statement clearing a misconception that these jobs positions will go to locals if Indian nationals do not take up these jobs. He admitted that there is an emerging and proficient talent breeding in Singapore, he also cautioned that it is not enough to meet the requirements of the multinationals willing to invest in Singapore.
The Strait Times presented a report in which it stated over 6,000 jobs are available in the Infocomm sector alone which remains unfilled because of the lack of local manpower in Singapore. Because of the digitalization boom that has happened over the past few years, every firm is creating resources to be digitally enabled and this has contributed to a rise in the demand for tech talent.
According to data by Man Power Ministry, there are 1,231,500 foreign workers, which includes 177,000 EP holders in Singapore (till December 2020) with 19% in information and communications technology, 19% in professional services, and 15% in the finance sector.
Tan also added that they cannot disallow or forbid foreign workers from working in Singapore or order foreign investment firms to hire only Singaporeans, as this would create problems in foreign relations and also discourage foreign investment in their country.
“Apart from some EP holders who settle down and become Permanent Residents (PRs) or Singapore Citizens, most of them work here for a few years and they either return home or move on elsewhere,” said Tan.
He also busted a myth that most of the foreign nationals are Indian nationals. He said that most EP holders in Singapore hail from China, India, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom, even though the percentage from India has doubled since then.