SINGAPORE — Singapore’s anti-fake news agency has on Saturday (14 December) highlighted two Facebook posts and an online article by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) that contained falsehoods regarding Singapore’s population policy.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has ordered, under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) law, the addition of a correction note to SDP's Facebook posts and an article on its website.
The POFMA Office also issued a media statement saying that POFMA has been used to “place the facts alongside the falsehoods”. The media statement also contained detailed rebuttals to SDP’s assertions that were deemed false by the MOM.
The statement said that SDP had paid for both Facebook posts to be boosted as advertisements on the social media network. Both posts are linked to the article on the SDP’s website titled, “SDP Population Policy: Hire S’poreans First, Retrench S’poreans last”.
Illustration depicting plunging local PMET employment
One of the Facebook posts includes a graphical illustration depicting plunging local PMET (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) employment.
MOM said the illustration is false. According to its Comprehensive Labour Force Survey, local PMETs employment has risen steadily, from 1.17 million in 2015 to 1.30 million in 2019.
As a proportion of the total local workforce, the local PMET share has also increased from 54 per cent in 2015 to 58 per cent in 2019.
Issues with statement in online article
Another falsehood that MOM took issue with concerns a statement in the online article which said, “The SDP’s proposal comes amidst a rising proportion of Singaporean PMETs getting retrenched.”
MOM said that there is no rising trend of local PMET retrenchments. The number of local PMETs retrenched in 2018 was, in fact, the lowest since 2014. Local PMETs retrenched, as a proportion of all local PMET employees, has also declined since 2015.
SDP’s graph on its Facebook posts also depicts the number of foreign PMETs as having increased sharply in recent years.
MOM has clarified that the number of Employment Pass (EP) holders has historically fluctuated depending on economic conditions. EP holders’ qualifying salaries are also regularly adjusted to safeguard employment of local PMETs.
In recent years, local PMET employment has continued to grow while the number of EP holders in Singapore remained stable, ranging from 187,900 in 2015 to 185,800 in 2018. The latest figure as of June 2019 is 189,000.
SDP accused of stoking fear and anxiety
In the media statement, the SDP is being accused of using the false and misleading statements to “stoke fear and anxiety among local PMETs”.
“Given the current uncertain economic climate, it is understandable that some Singaporeans feel anxious about employment prospects and retrenchments,” the statement said.
“This makes it all the more critical that public debate on the important issue of jobs is based on accurate facts, and not distortions or falsehoods.
“These false and misleading statements by the SDP have a singular objective – to stoke fear and anxiety among local PMETs. It is important to set the facts straight so that Singaporeans are not misled.”
Third time POFMA law was invoked
This is the third time the POFMA law was invoked since the law was enacted earlier this year.
The first occasion was on 25 November, when the POFMA Office issued a correction notice to opposition party member Brad Bowyer, regarding his Facebook post on investments by Temasek Holdings.
The second occasion came three days later, as a correction direction was issued against sociopolitical website States Times Review over a Facebook post that falsely claimed several individuals have been arrested over a recent post about Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam.
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