One System That Rules Them All

Selection process of the elites in Singapore

Ever wondered why Singapore needs foreign talent? Captain obvious said we need foreign talents simply because we lack talents. Singaporeans spent a lot of time having a (one way) debate with the government about the definition of talent and questioned if Singapore had a real need of the talents that the government insisted on. 

We were asking the government the wrong questions all along. The questions we should be asking are that, after decades boasting about our top universities rankings, why is Singapore left in a situation where we are lack talents? Is "Molding the future of our nation," working? Maybe it is time we should re-examine our  rankings fetish and pay some attention to our real needs.

The big part of the problem is the way we package occupations in Singapore. Jobs imbalance across the market is our biggest obstacle. Such that everyone wants their sons and daughters to be lawyers and doctors first, bankers and financial controllers second. Engineers, if all else fail and tough luck everything else. I wrote about this topic a couple of times. It was like playing soccer in the school days - nobody wants to be the goalkeeper. Even in the world of professional soccer, there are star defenders being paid close to, if not as much, as strikers. Comparing Singapore to a game of soccer, if we are paying our strikers many times more than any other positions on the field, everyone just wants to play striker. Without quality defenders,  you don't become a top team.

We need talents, local talents in every field and not limited to only a few selected vocations. In order to do that, we need level the income disparity across all occupations. Of course we are not talking about, say, getting a waiter paid as much as a lawyer as that would be too far fetch. But the current situation is such that some occupations are being paid 10 to 15 times or more than many other occupations. A certain member of parliament spoke about the link between a wage earner's dignity and salary. I am happy somebody saw the link but terribly disappointed that he was only referring and fighting to justify his own salary and forgotten about the people he was supposed to serve.

Labour chief cum Minister Lim Swee Say finally recognises that we must have our own local hearts in excelling in every vocation in order for Singapore to grow inclusively. We must stop the malediction of using foreigners to cover the cracks. 

A stitch in time saves nine. We are running out of time but our Labour Chief is still taking his own sweet time increasing workers' pay from S$800 to S$1,000. It is heartening to see us moving in the correct direction but we need to move much faster. If we are serious in this, we have to freeze the pay of the top earning occupations for years. It this sounds too radical and painful for the affected, did anyone stop to feel the pain of the majority remaining occupations while the disparity widens over the decades?

When a working man knows he can earn enough to support a family, he has the choice to enter the industry that could bring out the best of his abilities instead of going where the big money is. If we could drastically increase the percentage of our people performing optimally to what they are naturally good at, we are looking at the increase of productivity and possibly even innovation that would reap dividends in the years to come.

If we could recreate that burning passion in the work of the everyday wage-earner happy to perform, the probability of Singapore creating products or services of international demand will be significantly higher. The possibilities are limitless if we are open for a change in the structure of our educational and work system. For a resourceless country like Singapore, we need to be the fittest not the cheapest, to survive. To be fittest, we need to tap on the wisdom of the crowd from the Singapore population and bin the idea of investing in the selected few. Relying on minority who simply did better than the rest in their early life is myopic - a terrible investment strategy.

How about the idea of hiring foreigners to form the bulk of our army and let the higher educated locals to work to produce for the economy instead? That's unspeakable. Over reliance on foreigners is a fallacy that does not apply to strictly the security sector. We should think the same for any other sectors for there isn't a sector too unimportant to be trivialised.  Remember the logic of a strong football team. It is time for Singapore to seriously rethink and redo what has gone wrong.

A stitch in time, saves nine.

1 comment:

  1. hire gurkhas for the our defence. for that i think they do a better job.