Friday, April 15, 2011

A mystery unto itself - advice to young readers

Let me share with you, especially to the young readers. This is a real scenario. If you are a Singaporean, you might want to chew on this:

Many Singaporeans I know who had left Singapore to work overseas in Western countries (Australia, US, etc) took huge pay cuts. Some were paid less than 50% of their previous salaries. One of the main reasons cited by the recruitment firms and potential employers was that they did not have enough local experience. I am sharing from my interviewing experience when I migrated to Australia. Though I did not have a pay cut, I knew many did.

Yet many foreign talents (FTs), especially from Western countries, are 'invited' to come into Singapore, attracted by huge salaries plus perks. From a recent newspaper article, many of these FTs (it stated >75% of them) have annual packages of  >$180,000SGD. I have even read of one FT with a banking experience of 1+year taking a $7000SGD monthly plus perks, a tidy sum which Singaporeans may take 5-10 years to earn a similar amount.

I want to reiterate - I have nothing against FTs. However does this chap have any local experience?

Our FT policies treat them as if they are 'gold', bringing in so-called wealth of knowledge and skills enough to pay them so much more over. I am no sour grapes but I cringed paying someone so high with hardly any banking experience and worse - not even having local knowledge. I have also met highly-skilled and absolutely wonderful FT individuals in Singapore too.

One thing I don't understand -

Isn't hiring FTs meant keep Singapore cost competitive as often brayed by my ministers? We were told that if we keep asking for higher salaries, we would be edged out of competition by emerging countries like Philippines, India and Vietnam. I remember then PM Goh Chok Tong sharing that ONE Singaporean IT project manager can equate hiring 3-4 project managers from India. Then I wrote to Straits Times (ST) that with his pay of millions, I could have 3 Clinton presidents of much better calibre than any of my ministers. Of course my article wasn't published. And the truth is now project managers from India are not that cost effective. They do command a higher salary these days.

So who got the brunt of his words? I think many believed him and subconsciously put a cap to how much they are worth these days in fear of losing their jobs. I reckon many were hood-winked when the PAP started embracing FT policies. These local people swallowed the bait, line, sinker and fisherman. And his boots too because these ministers pay themselves exorbitant salaries claiming that they are highly sought after in the private sectors. Seriously give me a break!

Locals who went National Service and gave up two years of their prime youth to their country (mine was two and half years of NS, mind you!), studied in our so-called highly sought-after NUS/NTU, strived to make a decent graduate living at starting salaries of $2000-$2,300SGD monthly, and tried to support a family are now thumbed down and disadvantaged by these foreign talents who have no local experience whatsoever. These FTs took up job opportunities who could be filled by locals and also commanded a better pay many times over.

Why would any locals want to live in Singapore? I have never heard of any recruitment firms in Singapore telling an FT that he has to take a lower pay because he does not have local experience. Is this FT chap smarter, more productive or has he clocked more hours? Maybe but I doubt so.

I feel for you, young generation, coming out to work with your degrees and looking wide-eyed with hope and ambition to make it proud in Singapore. I empathise even more so for the next generation.

Unless you make yourself more marketable by going overseas to work for experience (yet maybe taking an intial pay cut but still gaining much more in experience) and come back as an FT, or perhaps emigrate to another country and live, it will be quite a challenge. Seriously.

I balked when my Minister Mah Bow Tan shared a vision of 6.5 million population in Singapore. With the stress and pressure to compete academically with FTs invited by the our government, doing NS and reservists but not compulsory to FTs (again!), and graduating and competing jobs with FTs (yet again!) and being edged out, I think you may have it going tough. I have just been to Japan. I admire them for keeping their Japanese people and culture and employing FTs where and when necessary.

So while young, spirited and without family commitments, grab opportunities that offer to work outside of Singapore. Look, feel, see and live life. Experience what it is like to be in another country, another environment. Not all is perfect I must warn you but one thing you have which I have lamented when in Singapore is -

Having an option and a choice.

This is often much lacking in Singapore. Be it in the music or arts, academic or trader work, excel in your passion. Even if you fail, there is a still a choice how you want your life to be.

In Singapore, it may well be like a caged hamster wheel as coined by Insane Polygon so aptly (link here).

On a separate note, reading these recent quotations published in MSM (mainstream media) make me want to puke!

When Jesus healed ten lepers, only one came back to thank him." - Lim Boon Heng, commenting that being an MP is a thankless job.
Verily, verily, Jesus did not did not ask for millions, He just healed them all. For free. Can you?

"They have full rights to participate in the debate, all debates. They can argue, they can establish themselves and they belong to political parties. These are not independents,’ - PM Lee Hsien Loong on NCMP scheme to ensure ‘opposition’ voices in parliament.
Right... if they can debate and shout till the cows come home but not have a single vote to action our voices in parliament, what are they there for again? I feel you are treating us with this contemptous "yeah, I'm listening but no thanks" attitude again. One which I detest very much.

"So if you think there is groupthink, that is one example you can quote – there is no groupthink." - Lim Boon Heng, who also had to toe the party line when he disagreed with some polices.
No 'groupthink'? Indeed, and there is no 'whitehorse' either. All figments of our imaginations. Minister, sir, you had the opportunity to stand up and make a difference. You didn't.

"Two-party system not workable here" - PM Lee, who had to spend time and effort to 'fix' the opposition in parliament.
We must be the most uniquely democratic country in the world. But it sure sounds eerily familiar to a dictator speaking in my humble opinion.


Percevale said...

I'm based out of australia now. Living expenses are quite high- almost double but I'm seriously loving the work life balance and the break from the tedium of eating-shopping-movies in singapore.

I've been following a blog and i think i read that you were based out of australia also. Any tips on how best to save here?

God willing, I can get my PR in 710 days...

Kaffein said...

Hi Percevale,
Don't know how you have arrived here but a big welcome.

I think it all depends on your lifestyle in regards to savings. It is also a very personal thing.

Good tips that I observe while living in AU:
- Bring lunch to work and microwave it. Usually it is my leftover dinner.
- Take the public transport to work
- Minimise eating out at restaurants. Cooking at home and having BBQs with friends are great savings.
- Compare prices. Various shops offer various prices.
- Wait for a sale. Many items are >20% off during a sale.
- I don't drink much nor do I smoke. That itself saves lot.

Most importantly enjoy yourself. There is only one life, live it.