Former Civil Servant Understands Pain Of Having To Compete With Foreigners For Jobs

Transitioning: First of all, thanks for allowing us to interview you online and can you provide us with some background information on yourself?

Linus: I am a 38-year-old Singaporean, currently living and working in Phnom Penh, Cambodia as a Director of Business Development with a Singapore-owned company. Until the middle of 2014, I was government officer, and my last appointment was Senior Assistant Director at one of the Ministries.

I was forced to resign from the Ministry following an incident where one of my subordinates was charged for alleged CBT, and my superiors thought someone had to take the fall for the failure to discover and report the breach. I found myself out of a job for six months following my resignation, and I was lucky to have met my current employer, and here I am in Cambodia.

Transitioning: What was your last occupation and you have told me that you were unemployed for a few months, can you tell us more about this and also your job search experience?

Linus: It’s never easy to be out of a job in Singapore, especially in such a challenging economic climate. I had to rely on savings that both me and my wife had painstaking built over the past 13 years. I had written to a number of foreign-owned and local companies only to hit a wall each time as they came up with all sorts of excuses, from me being ‘overly-qualified’ for some of the positions I’d applied for, or that they were still “interviewing other candidates”. There were even a few who out-rightly said I was above their budget based on my last drawn salary without even asking what I was expecting, and then I was shown out of the room (literally).

Transitioning: You have told me that you are currently jobless for more than six months, what did you do in order to survive? Did you also approach the CDC for assistance?

Linus: I didn’t approach the CDC but instead relied on savings. I was originally confident of getting a job based on my qualifications and experience, and thought our savings could see through a couple of months while waiting. What I didn’t count on was a prolonged job search.

There were times when I found myself not even having $10 in my pocket for meals outside because I would rather save and spend the money on other necessities. I didn’t go out and meet people and became a sort of a semi-recluse, often locking myself at home and having instant noodles for lunch.

Transitioning: Did you attend any interviews during the past few months and why do you think you are unsuccessful so far?

Linus: I think the reason why I had not been successful in finding jobs while in Singapore is because it’s just too competitive when you have locals and foreigners chasing after the same basket of jobs in a challenging economic situation.

There are 2 areas in which local Singaporeans lose out to the foreign candidate, in my opinion: (1) some foreigners, especially those from the Philippines, China and India are able to accept lower salaries for the same job roles and responsibilities; (2) in the case of Caucasian FTs, I think there is still very much a “colonial mentality” where local bosses will think the “ang moh” possesses more superior skills, while the foreign employer simply doesn’t bother with local candidates.

Of course, that’s only my view.

Transitioning: Tell us abit more about what you have learnt from your jobless experience and how it has impacted your family.

Linus: Remember that old adage “save up for a rainy day?” Guess what, it’s a myth. We had quite substantial savings, but because of the ridiculous and ludicrous living expenses in Singapore (I can say that now comparing the lifestyle I am enjoying in a seemingly “less developed” country), unless you had a million dollars in your savings, I’d say it doesn’t help much, because these days, we don’t know how long you have to remain unemployed for.

It was stressful for me and the wife. We try not to discuss hardship in front of the kids, but the kids can sense something is wrong — they’re usually sensitive to such things.

Transitioning: What do you think you could have done to shorten the unemployment period?

Linus: Nothing much except wait and hope for the best.

Transitioning: Do you think that Singapore is now a more difficult place to make a living?

Linus: Yes, definitely.

Transitioning: What do you think the government can do to alleviate the current employment situation?

Linus: Well I think they should take seriously the cries from the ground with regards to foreigners competing for jobs with us — it’s something that’s real, and not just some urban myth. Secondly, it doesn’t help too that we have ministers like Tan Chuan Jin coming out to justify why they think foreigners should be paid more than Singaporeans, and making it sound like Singaporeans are lousier in comparison.

Transitioning: Many people have blame foreigners for competing jobs with us, what is your view on this?

Linus: See the above. Many people will read my comments on the foreigners and say “there you go, another one of those”. But I can tell you from where I was previously, the statistics we get tells exactly that story: it’s the government officers who paint a different tale because it’s their job to convey the messages that the leaders want them to say.

Transitioning: Lastly, whats your advice for those who are still jobless and feeling down?

Linus: Don’t give up on yourself. And it helps if you go out there and talk to more people, unlike what I did; these days, finding jobs is a lot more to do with networking than it is about searching on jobsites.

Thanks and end of interview


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