Employers’ No.1 reason for hiring foreigners is job flexibility: survey

Singaporean employers prefer foreigners mainly because of their flexibility to take up jobs that locals avoid, and not so much because they are cheaper to hire.

A JobStreet.com survey released on Tuesday revealed 93 per cent of respondents said their companies hired non-Singaporeans and that they made up 30 to 50 per cent of the company’s workforce.

But interestingly though, while 66 per cent of employees believed the main reason for hiring them was because they were cheaper, only 16 per cent of employers said this was the main reason for hiring them.

Instead, 40 per cent of employers said the main reason for hiring foreigners was because they were able to take up jobs that locals would avoid.

Another 24 per cent said foreigners were more diligent and would work longer hours.

The survey, which interviewed 1,400 Singaporean jobseekers and 200 employers in July this year, also said 20 per cent of employers believed foreigners were better skilled in areas of expertise. 

Wei Chan, owner of Pine Garden Cakes bakery, agrees with the findings.

He told Yahoo! Singapore, “Singaporeans have evolved and moved upscale in terms of lifestyle, and naturally, their job scope and work-life balance requirements at work. They are particular towards where they work, time, job scope and pay. The unsustainable request of these various aspects has led to employers seeking alternatives from non-Singaporeans who’re more willing to take up jobs that Singaporeans shun.”

The case is especially true for a small-medium business like his, he said.

He added that flexibility is key in retail for weekends especially, which is what most Singaporeans and local part-timers shun. Wei is currently hiring the maximum manpower quota of foreigners that Singapore’s labour laws permit at the moment.

Kurt Wee, vice-president of a private asset management firm Conrad and Ottess Private Asset Management Limited, also shared with Yahoo! Singapore that foreigners tend to be less demanding and more flexible because the stakes are higher.

Wee, who also sits on the council of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises Singapore, said, “Usually, the alternative would be for them to return home with a lower pay while that is not the case for Singaporeans who have more options.”

However, he added that if all factors including attitude, experience, qualifications of a non-Singaporean candidate versus a Singaporean candidate, he would prefer hiring the latter.

“Singaporeans are here to stay, and so if you train them, you can entrust them with larger responsibilities over time and are therefore more sustainable for the job. But that also depends on the type of job,” Wee added.

Local employers do adopt “Singaporean-First” hiring policy

However, Anthony Ung, Country Manager of JobStreet.com Singapore observed that Singaporean employers do tend to adopt the “Singaporean-First” hiring policy.

He based his observations on over 35,000 job postings available on JobStreet.com every month.

He added, “It will be beneficial for local employees to focus on putting their best effort forward rather than speculating about the threats of a co-worker. Very often, these speculations are not reflective of what their employers may think.”

The survey also revealed that 27 per cent of locals did say they saw value in working with foreigners. They also agreed that foreigners tend to be less demanding at work, and better skilled.

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