Regarding Foreigners

Regarding Foreigners

(Note: Long entry ahead)

The General Elections 2011 was over for just about 2 months, but even now, we could feel the impact to society.

I have kept silent on the foreigners issue since the beginning of my involvement into politics, because I stand neutral in this matter. But I guess through recent events, there was only that much silence I could maintain.

In my line of work as a recruiter, I deal with foreigners on a daily basis. Hell, I was even responsible in doing what was condemned in GE2011, placing foreigners into jobs Singaporeans are capable of doing.

That being said, as a very typical Singaporean, I curse and swear about some of the grief I had to endure with this group of foreigners. But let it also be known that I have had the pleasure of dealing with some really awesome foreigners as well.

Anyway, Singaporeans give me equal (and sometimes more) amounts of grief to curse and swear about.

But that’ll be an entry for another time.

As I read from social media, internet news sources or even comments from people I know, I noticed a pattern slowly emerging.

Foreigners (as a total entity) had been a very convenient excuse for anything and everything that happened to Singapore.

Increase findings of corpses? Cos of foreigners lah!

Increased social issues? Cos of foreigners lah!

Packed train stations at peak hours? Cos of foreigners lah!

Lousy service? Cos of foreigners lah!

Lack of jobs, university opportunities, housing for Singaporeans? Cos of foreigners lah!

And the list goes merrily on.

While I do agree with some of the comments, seriously though, enough should be enough. Foreigners may have started a butterfly effect that played a part in all the issues that had happened (or will happen), but it is getting too easy to use them as The Reason for all our suffering.

Foreigners will probably be the next synonym for Sauron from Lord of the Rings, aka the Root of all Evil at this rate.

While I do not agree with the current policies allowing unrestricted entry of foreigners into the workforce, they should not be the ones to carry the brunt of the people who decided and agreed upon these policies.

Say a restaurant offers buffet promotions without conditions. And as you’re eating there, helping yourself to perhaps the N-th serving of the most expensive food item, the restaurant managements grumbles loudly about how the customers are taking advantage of them.

Yes, it is a terrible analogy, but I hope this made my point across.

During the past two weeks, I was involved in a unique situation. It was this situation and the repercussions of it that prompted me to write this blog entry to share my thoughts.

The Story of Mr Foreigner, SME ABC and the Work Pass.

Mr Foreigner was a graduate from a local tertiary institute. While in the past, foreign students are given PR invitation letters upon graduation, it wasn’t the case for him due to the recent changes in immigration policies.

He tried unsuccessfully to get a job for a quarter of a year. Finally, he was offered a job from SME ABC. It wasn’t a job that offered the path for his ideal career, but hey, a job is a job. He accepted the job through verbal agreement and did the necessary procedures for his work passes. He was awarded the work passes, even though he never formally signed any contract agreement with SME ABC.

It just so happened that a week after his work passes with SME-ABC was approved, Mr Foreigner had the was eventually offered an entry level into the exact career path he dreamed to have from MNC XYZ.

Mr Foreigner was no dodo. He had lived in this city-island for three years and through that three years he had heard enough of MNC XYZ to know it was one of the most attractive places a fresh graduate could enter.

What would any fresh graduate (locals or foreigners alike) have selected?

He accepted the MNC XYZ offer and proceeded to complete the paperwork. But MNC XYZ hits a problem. Mr Foreigner already had a valid work passes with SME ABC. Unless SME ABC cancels the work passes, MNC XYZ will not be able to apply the work passes for Mr Foreigner.

He requested SME ABC to cancel the pass. They replied by saying they will do it after the weekend.

After the weekend, and some weekdays, flew past, SME ABC told him the person who does the work passes was overseas and will complete the cancellation after he returns. There was nothing else they could do.

A few days after he returned from overseas, SME ABC told him the cancellation system was on a scheduled 18 hour maintenance hence there was nothing they could do.

A week after the system was up, SME ABC stopped answering his calls or replying his SMSes. When they eventually did answer, they reprimanded him for lack of work ethics and having them incur the extra $30 for the medical checkup. They then continued to ignore and avoid his calls.

It became quite clear to Mr Foreigner that this lack of action was done deliberately.

At wit’s end, Mr Foreigner sought help from the governance of all manpower problems. The governance advised him to send an email to SME ABC formally resigning from his post and requesting their action to cancel the work visa. If SME ABC should ignore his email, the governance would then be able to take action.

Two days after Mr Foreigner sent the email, SME ABC continued maintaining their silence. The email was forwarded to the governance and then…


In the days that followed, Mr Foreigner went to seek more advice and help from the governance, hoping someone would be able to provide some concrete help in his situation. The time is ticking and he knew, using his common sense, that MNC XYZ will not have the patience to wait for a fresh graduate for two weeks.

Governance Officer A told him, there was nothing they could do. He has to make a trip to SME ABC to have them cancel the work pass or he has to wait till the work pass expires… after 6 months. Otherwise, he has to wait till the governance has an update.

Governance Officer B was more helpful. He pressed some buttons on a device known as a desk phone and attempted to contact SME ABC. SME ABC continues ignoring calls. After one afternoon of calling, Officer B told him there was nothing else they could do since SME ABC continues to ignore their calls.

Mr Foreigner knew he could not find another job until SME ABC decides to cancel his work pass. But by the time SME ABC decides to cancel, it might have already been too late.

This is not a fairy tale. This is Singapore. There were no happy endings to this story.

The story ended with the worst case scenario.

(To anyone and everyone who had had the patience to read thus far, the tips of my fingers thank you.)

I’d just like to ask a question.

Is this Mr Foreigner’s fault?

Perhaps some reactions would be, “Yes! He asked for it. Who ask him to reject SME ABC? Got job still want to choose! Serves him right lah!”

To those who would like to respond with this answer (or similar variations), with all due respect, you deserve a smack to the back of the head.

A job is a job, that I agree.

But given a choice between a prominent MNC and a SME, the preference for most fresh graduates would be obvious; the MNC. This isn’t the issue of pickiness. It is just human nature.

If Google offers you, the reader, a job opportunity after you’ve accepted a job offer with a company you never knew existed before, would you have done the same thing?

Would you have liked it to lose the offer with Google because this company decides to punish you for making them do extra paperwork?

Would you have liked it if you were not legally allowed to seek for another job for 6 months, ANY job for the same reason?

For whatever reason why SME ABC chooses to take such an action (or lack thereof) is up to anyone’s imagination.

The unfortunate fact is, Mr Foreigner faced helplessness in the country he stayed in three years, believing in prospects in his future was brighter here than his sub-rural hometown upon graduation from a local institute. Not only from the companies, but from the mother of all manpower issues as well. And for someone who could only sit in the sidelines and listen to him over the phone, I find myself unable to be apathetic to his predicament.

Yet it is just plain sad that I have to tell him these dreaded words:

“There’s nothing else I could do.”

An honest, but sad reply. There was nothing I could do, except to advice and direct him to where he could seek help.

So what if he’s a foreigner, seriously.

Every other day in my line, I deal with people rejecting the clients I have to offer. Even if the clients I offer to candidates are big and prominent names in the industry, there could still be an endless assortment of reasons from candidates on why they’d rather not consider these clients.

“Too much politics.”

“Too much turnover.”

“I hear from my friend ah, inside not good.”

“I don’t want to work this kind of projects. Only want big banks now.”

“Too far.”

“Not central? I prefer CBD area leh.”

“Just don’t want this company lah.”

“I only looking for minimum 25% increment. Not negotiable. If your client cannot afford me than is ok.”

And this list goes rapidly longer and ridiculous with each passing year I stay on as a recruiter. Trust me, I get more of these reasons from locals than foreigners.

This is a single case. Perhaps it is a localized case, just one of its kind. It’s just the case of one foreigner who had gotten bullied by this country, as compared to the millions others enjoying their stay here.

But it’s time we stop using foreigners as the reason for all the negativity happening in Singapore. Not everything is their fault. Not everything is done by them.

I am a Singaporean.

I am pro-opposition because I agree with what these parties are saying.

But I am not anti-foreigner.

Before Singapore reaches a state of xenophobia, I’d just like this to be shared.

These are the thoughts of one average recruiter, who sees the life of an average foreigner from a slightly different angle.

Signing off,
From the Desk of a Recruiter

Copyright © 2009 From the Desk of a Recruiter All rights reserved. Theme by Laptop Geek. | Bloggerized by FalconHive.