PSP Leong Mun Wai asked in Parliament why Singapore’s education system was not producing the required numbers of local talent needed.
“Minister Tan said that there’s simply not enough local talent… Then what happened to our education system? What happened after 20 years, you’re still telling Singaporeans that we (have) not enough talent.”
Is there anything wrong with our education system?
We have the best education system in the world according to the World Bank.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with our education system. In the most recent World Bank Human Capital Index, Singapore ranks the best country in the world in human capital development, ahead of Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea who were in second, third and fourth place respectively, and also ahead of Switzerland.
In its report, the World Bank said, “Together with strong financial support from the government, the country continues to strengthen the nimbleness and flexibility of its workforce by providing continuing education such as the Skills future initiative. Government spending on continuing education will nearly double, to more than S$1 billion yearly.”
Children born in Singapore today can be expected to fulfill 88 per cent of their potential to be productive when they grow up, given that they get a full education and enjoy good health, says the World Bank.
We continue to attract foreign investments because of our skilled workforce.
Last year, despite the pandemic gloom, Singapore secured S$17.2 billion in Fixed Asset Investments (FAI). It was a record 12-year high. Apart from competent and trusted governance, a key reason is our skilled workforce. No company wants to site their investments where they cannot find the workforce they need.
There are just not enough of us.
To meet Singaporeans’ aspirations for quality jobs, skills upgrading is necessary but insufficient. We must also attract good companies to grow their businesses here.
Our economy requires 3.4 million people to support the entire breadth and depth of activities. With a local workforce of just 2.3 million, we need to supplement with people from the rest of the world.
By remaining open and providing businesses with the access to global expertise, the Singapore government has anchored many good jobs for Singaporeans that could have gone elsewhere. In most sectors, locals comprise 70% to 80% of all professionals, managers and executive.
“We confine ourselves to Singaporeans. .. You get rid of that 1 million foreigners, you will be unemployed. Many of you will not find the jobs but of course because you have the vote, you’re telling the government, “Me first” but does it make sense?”
– Lee Kuan Yew in 2003 to NTU students
The world is in a global competition for limited tech talents.
The world in in a fierce competition for limited global talents. The country that wins in attracting tech talents wins the tech war.
A Forbes article (published 1 July 2021) says:
“Now, big organizations with big budgets are driving up wages, paying more for workers – and not just for workers on the coasts, but for qualified candidates anywhere. In other words, companies are up against wage inflation and a competitive field that includes not just their own backyard but the entire world. This makes the talent squeeze especially difficult for medium- and small businesses.”
Welcome talents here or shut them out?
A company hiring x number of foreign talents and y number of local talents creates y number of good jobs for Singaporeans.
Which do you prefer? Would you rather that a company comes here, hire x number of foreign talent and y number of Singaporean talent? Or the company choosing to go elsewhere and hiring 100% foreign talent?
In the first scenario, the company is here and good jobs are created for Singaporeans. In the second scenario, the company is elsewhere and zero jobs created for Singaporeans.
To sum up, there is nothing wrong with our education system as DPM Heng Swee Keat pointed out. Our schools are producing talents and this is why we have a highly skilled workforce to attract investments here. But there are just not enough of us to power the economy needed to created good jobs – not just jobs – for our large group of highly educated Singaporeans.