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I overheard a Singaporean complaining that he is disadvantaged to “foreign talent” because they don’t have to do reservist duty and waste 2 years of their lifes in National Service. I hear this way too often (especially the dark cesspools of Stomp, sgClub, etc.)

Somehow I doubt this puts Singaporeans at a inherent disadvantage:

1. They are still in their home territory. Their wage bidding price should be lower because of this – they get more tax credits and subsidies (like the GST rebates, and the wage subsidy for 2009 and 2010), their housing costs is significantly cheaper, and if they have children, their education cost is also much cheaper.

2. They were also educated in public schools in Singapore – which is some of the best in the world. Foreigners either study in lower quality schools (like me) or pay a lot to get a better education.

3. Access to Singaporean local universities is harder for Singaporeans. For NUS and NTU, foreigners are limited to 20% of the enrolment – foreigners face far steeper competition than Singaporeans. In SMU, foreigners usually have to take the SAT, an expensive, pointless admission test.

4. Singaporeans have the advantage of being local. If there are two equally good equally good candidates for a job, employers almost always pick the Singaporean – they don’t need to adjust to the Singaporean culture, for one. And HR don’t need to do a whole lot of paperwork for Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and the Ministry of Manpower. If there is a retrenchment, foreigners are typically chosen over Singaporeans.

5. A job is not an entitlement. Employers shouldn’t be forced to hire someone less desirable simply because of where they’re borned.

Just to be clear, I’m all for the abolishment of national service. The circumstances NS was created for is wildly different from today. Singapore isn’t embroiled in a bloody, drawn out communist insurgency (the Malayan Emergency) today, and the last time a foreign country attacked Singapore was when it was part of Malaysia (Indonesia’s Ganyang Malaysia campaign). Instead the threats of today (cross-border terrorism, piracy) doesn’t require a large reservist force.

Best of all, Singapore wouldn’t need to spend $10 million trying to get Singaporeans to like foreign residents. Imagine how high the ministerial pay can be if they didn’t need to spend so much on the NS programme…

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One Comment

  1. Couldn’t agree more.

    Excellent post.


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