Covid-19 Made WFH More Commonplace, Employers Can Recruit Worldwide: DPM

In a global city like ours, one major issue that won’t go away is jobs and how they’re taken up by Singaporeans and foreigners.

There are some who feel that Singaporeans shouldn’t have to compete with foreigners for jobs that citizens are willing to do.

Others think that Singapore needs to be open to foreigners to survive.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat feels that It’s not possible to “bubble wrap” Singapore workers from foreign competition, and succeed at the same time.


That’s because working from home (WFH) has become more commonplace now, and employers can thus hire workers from all over the world.

Singapore had no choice but to open to the world: DPM

Mr Heng said this on Friday (13 Aug), in a speech marking the National University of Singapore’s 115th anniversary (NUS115).


He was taking part in a forum on “Shaping the Future of Singapore”, part of the NUS115 Distinguished Speaker Series.

While expounding on how the nation came to be what it is today, he also touched on how Singapore opened to the world.

Being a small country without natural resources, Singapore had no choice but to do that, Mr Heng said, adding,

We would not have succeeded if we had insulated ourselves.

Millions of graduates in Asia every year

Mr Heng also said that millions of university graduates in Asia will enter the workforce every year.

They will “add significantly to the global talent pool” in coming years, he added.


This, coupled with the accelerating pace of technological change, means that,

The reality is that it is not possible to “bubble wrap” our workers from foreign competition and still expect to succeed.

Covid-19 has made WFH more commonplace

A reason for this, Mr Heng said, is due to Covid-19 making remote work “more commonplace”.

As more people WFH, that also means they can “work from anywhere”.


Even more physical jobs like port crane operators can now be done remotely from a control room anywhere in the world, he added.

Foreigners can compete with us remotely

This will lead to employers finding it easier to recruit the most-skilled workers from all over the world.

Mr Heng also pointed out what some Singaporeans would think is bad news,

This means foreigners do not have to be in Singapore to compete with us.

Thus, he feels that it would be “increasingly difficult, if not impractical” to restrict job opportunities by physical geography.


Closing our doors is ineffective: DPM

In response to this, what should Singapore do?

According to Mr Heng, what we must not do is close our doors, as that’s “ineffective”.

He’s also of the opinion that it provides a false promise of security, adding,

We must not box ourselves into a false choice.

Embrace openness, give ourselves tools to succeed: DPM

Rather, instead of being wary of foreign competition, Mr Heng said we should embrace openness.

But in doing so, Singapore won’t leave our companies and people to fend for themselves.

Rather, we should give ourselves the “experience and skills to succeed”.


To that end, Singapore’s transforming our companies and equipping our people to take on new opportunities, he said.

For example, we are:

  1. Helping companies digitalise and adapt to a post-Covid world
  2. Integrating our economic transformation efforts with research and innovation
  3. Supporting start-ups like Patsnap, Carousell and Shopback
  4. Putting greater focus on jobs and skills, e.g. with the SkillsFuture movement

2 issues Singapore must work on

However, Mr Heng also acknowledged 2 issues that Singapore has to work on:

  1. Adjusting our foreign manpower policies
  2. Strengthening our laws on fair treatment at the workplace

While this is happening, he said Singaporeans’ multicultural upbringing gives us an advantage.

He advised young Singaporeans to make the best of the new opportunities that Asia has to offer and think of how to make difference to the world.


For that’s the best way that Singapore can continue thriving, he concluded.

You can read Mr Heng’s full speech at the Prime Minister’s Office website.

Embrace the competition & improve ourselves

Given the technological advances, most Singaporeans will agree that it’ll definitely become more and more difficult to stop foreigners from competing with us.

It’s also clear that the Government’s stand is to embrace the competition, not push back against it – and improve ourselves instead.

That’s one way to respond – whether Singaporeans are willing to do that is another question. Do share your thoughts on this issue with us.

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Featured image adapted from Facebook and LYCS Architecture @ Unsplash.