Discriminatory job ads on the decline? That is but the tip of our problems.

January 22, 2010 by
Filed under: Current Affairs and Politics 

Written by Ng E-Jay
22 January 2010

According to a report recently released by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (Tafep), discriminatory job advertisements such as those unfairly specifying the preferred race or gender of the job applicant without explaining why those characteristics are necessary for the job, are on the decline.

The Straits Times article “Discriminatory job ads decline: Report” (21 Jan 2010) quoted the Tafep’s report as saying that the number of print advertisements containing discrimination fell to 1% last year compared to 19.7% in 2006.

Immediate questions arise. Firstly, what criteria does Tafep use to determine whether companies have fairly specified certain age or gender requirements as a result of genuine manpower needs (like requiring applicants to be below a certain age as hard labour is involved)? Secondly, why has Tafep confined itself to print media when there is a slowly growing number of job advertisements made online?

These questions however are academic. The main issue I have with the Tafep report is that it has neglected to consider discrimination against Singaporeans vis-a-vis foreign workers.

There has been a recent outcry in online forums and blogs against some advertisements made by companies specifying that they would prefer to recruit only foreigners or PRs.

For example, a hiring blitz conducted by Courts Singapore (the furniture mart) which targeted only Malaysians has come under heavy scrutiny.

Courts CEO Terry O’ Connor is alleged to have written a strongly worded rebuttal saying that the Malaysia hiring spree was a one-off affair that was initiated only after they had failed to obtain sufficient response from Singaporeans.

Such heated debates amongst netizens about companies apparently discriminating against local workers are symptomatic of the PAP Government’s ill-conceived liberal foreign worker policies which have caused Singaporeans to become disenfranchised in their own country.

Tafep’s report on the decline of discriminatory ads is no reason at all to cheer because even if advertisements do not discriminate outright, that does not stop employers from actively discriminating behind the scenes, since they never have to account for who they hire.

In reality, discriminatory ads are but the tip of our problems.

As former NMP Siew Kum Hong explained in his video interview with AlJazeera’s (see here), we have a growing number of foreigners with no special skills who are competing with middle class and lower middle class Singaporeans for jobs, and that is where Singaporeans feel the most hurt.

The sad truth is that the overly-liberal and under-regulated import of foreign workers has resulted in the exploitation of both locals as well as foreigners.

Local workers are made to accept depressed wages and are made to work ever longer hours even in the face of a rapidly rising cost of living. They have to compete with rapidly growing numbers of foreigners for a limited supply of jobs on equal terms even though the latter are saddled with none of the liabilities of citizenship such as National Service.

Foreign workers on the other hand are not spared gross abuse either. There have been many stories of low skilled foreign workers being housed in unsanitary living quarters, not being paid by their employers, and threatened with harm or deportation should they complain to the authorities. Repeated humanitarian crises involving foreign workers which have erupted far too regularly over the years are a great shame on a Government which dares to call itself first world.

All this abuse and negligence has come about because the Government has chosen to charge ahead with its “growth at all cost” model of economic management and has failed to pay sufficient attention to the resultant strain on our social fabric and the inevitable exploitation of workers by companies who find it all too easy to hide in the shadow of a regime that treats Singaporeans as mere economic digits.

Social justice and equality have been rudely sacrificed at the altar of globalization and “progress”. It is high time Singaporeans demanded full accountability from the Government using all available channels including the ballot box.

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5 Comments on Discriminatory job ads on the decline? That is but the tip of our problems.

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  1. fairplay on Sun, 24th Jan 2010 9:17 pm
  2. http://www.straitstimes.com/STForum/Story/STIStory_480973.html

    ST Forum
    Home > ST Forum > Story
    Jan 23, 2010
    No Mandarin? Sorry, no job

    WITH reference to Thursday’s article, ‘Discriminatory job ads decline: Report’, I have spent the past week scouring job advertisements and attending interviews for a part-time job while waiting for my A-level results.

    Despite efforts by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices, the job market is still alive with discriminatory practices.

    While employers may avoid the race discrimination trap in advertisements by omitting race, the giveaway is usually an insistence on bilingual proficiency.

    In fact, some bluntly bracket the phrase ‘able to speak Mandarin’ next to the bilingual requirement.

    By doing so, they make Mandarin a precondition for hiring rather than merely one language required.

    Such a prerequisite rules out many able bilingual Singaporeans whose second language is not Chinese.

    Responding to an ad for event promoters by a major recruitment agency at International Plaza, I travelled to the office for an interview, only to be flatly told that only Mandarin-speaking applicants would be considered.

    The claim that communication with Chinese customers requires Mandarin- speaking staff is dubious at best. For more than 40 years, English has been the primary medium of instruction at schools. With the exception of some elderly Singaporeans, most Singaporeans can communicate in English.

    So, who, apart from China-linked firms, do these companies cater to?

    I found the requirement by Duty Free Shopping at Changi Airport for sales associates to be proficient in English and preferably Mandarin in order to serve Chinese customers bizarre when the airport serves tourists who speak a variety of languages.

    Another worrying observation I made during my job-seeking journey was that in many offices, Mandarin was the lingua franca.

    As I sat in offices awaiting my interview bewildered by a constant flurry of Mandarin, I envisioned my workplace after I leave school.

    But I jump the gun. Such worries should be reserved for when I get a job. But again, I don’t speak Mandarin.

    Abinaya Puspanathan (Ms)

  3. PG on Sat, 31st Jul 2010 8:03 pm
  4. No matter what the government does in the way of publicity about the way they run the country . They have done little to protect Singaporeans , either from discrimination , unfair competition from unskilled foreign labour , and even then not protecting the foreign workers from bad living conditions , very low salaries , and threats iof deportation .
    They will reap what they have sown in the future .

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