Transitioning: First of all, thanks for allowing us to interview you online and can you provide us with some background information about yourself?
Patrick: I am a Singaporean PMET with many years of IT experience. I have a wife and a two-year-old child.
We live in our HDB flat and trying hard to have a happy life.
Growing up in Singapore was much more better times that it is now.
Looking at how things are now, I am often worried about how it will be when our child grows up.
I am usually an optimistic person and consider myself quite intelligent and solving problems.
However, this is one problem that I am quite frustrated about as I can’t seem to find the solution.
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?
Patrick: My last job was as a permanent employee with an IT MNC where I was in charge of implementing large scale IT projects. However, after my last project was successfully completed, I was retrenched as part of their global restructuring program. They did acknowledge that I was a good performer and that it was not due to my performance but due to the Global restructuring.
I had put in a lot of effort and time during my project and sacrificed my family time for the sake of the company success. I had been putting in 16-17 hours daily for more than 6 months and sometimes on Saturdays too.
As a result the project was a success. However, shortly thereafter, I was retrenched.
Therefore for the first couple of months after my retrenchment, I spent a lot of time with my family to make up for the earlier time lost.
I started looking with more vigour since January this year and have submitted hundreds of applications for relevant jobs.
I did have a handful of interviews, but they were all unsuccessful.
I found that employers themselves aren’t sure of what they want to do. For example, some employers interview, but do not take any action for months or put the position on hold.
Others have said that they decided to hire/promote internally or the worst is they give absolutely no update at all.
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?
Patrick: Luckily I have been good at saving all these days, and am now eating into my savings. Hopefully, I can find a job before my savings finish. I have not approached CDC for financial or other help.
Transitioning: Did you attend any interviews during the past few months and why do you think you are unsuccessful so far?
Patrick: Yes, I have attended interviews, but as mentioned, the companies themselves aren’t sure what they want to do and end up not selecting any candidate. I have also lowered my expectation to below market standards, and agencies question me why so low.
I do not think that I am being choosy in terms of salary, location of even workload. However, I do have a strong feeling that employers are spoilt for chose and they are the ones who are being choosy these days.
I think the basic reason is that employers are being choosy.
Transitioning: Tell us abit more about what you have learnt from your jobless experience and how it has impacted your family.
Patrick: Jobless experience is not very good. It does affect the family life and causes unnecessary friction as both husband and wife are worried about the future.
As the sole breadwinner, I am constantly under pressure to provide for my family and to keep the roof over our head. It is very frustrating to apply for jobs in Singapore.
There seems to be nothing much that anyone can do. I have approached many people and seeking help from them. But no luck. My only avenue is job portals and job agents. Both are not much help.
There are some good points as well to being jobless, in that I get to spend more time with my child and help my wife with the household chores. I also enjoy a little gardening, going to the library to catch up on my reading and sometimes if its not too hot I go to the nearby park to fly my kite.
Transitioning: What do you think you could have done to shorten the unemployment period?
Patrick: I have no idea. If i did, I would have done it already and not be unemployed for so long.
Transitioning: Do you think that Singapore is now a more difficult place to make a living?
Patrick: Yes, its very difficult for Singaporeans to make a living in Singapore. Its quite ironic that we find it difficult in our own home whereas newcomers seem to have it easier.
Transitioning: What do you think the government can do to alleviate the current employment situation?
Patrick: Immediate (should start by July):
1. Stop issuing all EP’s for PMET jobs immediately.
2. Enforce a rule that makes it necessary for employers to look at the unemployed Singaporeans first.
3. Start a database of all unemployed PMET’s in Singapore that the employers can tap on for immediate hire.
4. For those employers who are looking for a specific skill, WDA can provide free/subsidised training for the candidates who come close to the requirement but missing one or two skills. Employer could also provide OJT for such candidates.
5. Provide clear & transparent statistics on unemployed PMETs to the general public. The statistics could include things like Age, Gender, Race, Qualification, Duration of Unemployment (1-3months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months >1 year, >2 years). I believe right now if you are unemployed more than 6 months you are considered”retried”. Currently the statistics says that Singapore unemployment rate is 1.9%. I don’t think this takes into consideration people who are jobless for more than 6 months. I feel that the unemployment rate might be much higher. Lets be transparent about how many are really unemployed.
Long term (should start by Jan 2016):
What should happen is that employers should have to demonstrate that there is a shortage of the specific skills/PMET in Singapore and so needs to hire from overseas. The EP should only be given after a 3-6 months of exhaustive search locally. Exhaustive mean that they should keep all records of those people they interviewed and have a clearly detailed report on why that person was not suitable.
Their search should not be limited to job agents and job websites, but they should also work with WDA, MOM etc to find suitable locals. Companies can only apply for EP if such a skill is not found locally (SG/PR). MOM needs to review the report made by the employer and cross check with the candidates, WDA and job agents to ensure the authenticity of the report. During the review if a suitable local candidate is found then the employer will not get an EP approval.
We should also have an absolute limit to the number of EP’s per year, just like the US does with its H1B. So for example if Singapore adds 50K PMET jobs annually, then only about 10-15K EP’s will be set aside for that year. Once the EP’s finish, no more EP for that year. Try next year!
Employers need to plan their future needs properly and those who are good planners will not face issues even if they need to wait 6 months for foreign hires/EP. These days, employers tend to be short sighted and not able to plan properly at all. They are too spoilt and need to be reined in by controlling the EP’s! This will also increase the chances of local talent to get employment.
Transitioning: Many people have blame foreigners for competing jobs with us, what is your view on this?
Patrick: When I was employed, we used to often invite friends and family over to our home for dinner. These days we have completely stopped as we are trying to cut down on our costs. To me, its the same at the national level. When you have unemployed people in your own home, you should not be inviting others to come in. It’s like you have hungry mouths to feed in your home and you invite outsiders for dinner.
I don’t blame the foreigners, they are coming in because we let them in/invite them. Its a policy and implementation issue. There is no policy that forces employers to hire locals first (guideline is not a policy/law its just a suggestion, not compulsory); so employers will do whatever they are allowed to in order to maximise their profits.
We locals are losing out to corporates who just want to save some money. We lose out as we are not protected by our own people.
Transitioning: Lastly, whats your advice for those who are still jobless and feeling down?
Patrick: My basic advise is to stay strong, don’t give up. You probably heard this a million times, but its true, its hope that keeps us going. We need to keep the hope. Sometimes we feel like the situation is hopeless, and nothing can be done etc. Every morning I wake up with new hope, that maybe something will happen today. Every evening I go to bed angry and frustrated that nothing happened. But I wake up again next morning and I try something a little different.
Its like we’re trapped in this maze, in order to get out, we must 1. Not give up. 2. Keep trying different paths. You WILL get out of this mess.
That what I am hoping for myself and I hope for you too.
Editor’s note: any employer keen to review Patrick’s resume please let us know by emailing [email protected]