KF Seetoh Calls Out Blue-Collar Job Creation, Suggests Ring-Fencing Food Sector To Solve Manpower Crunch
So some people might have been cheered when the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM’s) jobs report said 5,420 jobs had been created in the food sector.
However, food guru KF Seetoh has taken issue with the news, saying the jobs created are mostly blue-collar jobs that Singaporeans don’t want to do.
In a lengthy Facebook post on Wednesday (24 Sep), he also railed against the MOM’s restrictions on hiring of foreign manpower, as it’s causing a manpower crunch in the food & beverage (F&B) industry.
6,700 opportunities in the food sector, 5,420 of them are jobs
According to the latest jobs situation report by the MOM, which was released on Monday (21 Sep), 6,700 opportunities have been created in the food sector since Apr.
Of these, 5,420 are jobs in the food service and food manufacturing industries.
The rest are company-hosted traineeships and attachments, as well as training opportunities.
Out of the 5,420 jobs, 2,070 are for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs). They include:
- food technologists
- F&B services managers
- business development managers
That leaves a majority of 3,350 jobs for non-PMETs. They include:
- general foremen (food processing)
- pastry & confectionery makers
- shop & store salespersons
S’poreans don’t want these jobs: KF Seetoh
Pointing to a Straits Times article on the jobs report, Mr Seetoh said it should have been headlined: “5.4k jobs on offer in food sector that nobody is hard up for, since April”.
That’s because, according to him, Singaporeans have been bred by the Government to aspire to “higher mighty goals”.
Singaporeans won’t want blue-collar jobs that involve “button pressing” and a rigid “clock-in-and-out system”, he said, adding,
Creating jobs for Singaporeans in these times, is one thing and I am all for it, but offering blue-collared (jobs) that they shun and can’t even do… that’s an ironic story.
He also referred to a line in the ST article that said a total of 16,100 jobs and training opportunities in a range of sectors have been created.
However, only 2,430 people have taken these jobs and opportunities.
Manpower policy needs a rethink: KF Seetoh
Mr Seetoh then pointed to the F&B outlets who’re looking for workers, and willing to pay fair wages or even above that.
He says that they have to 1st hire 3 Singaporeans who don’t want these jobs before being able to hire a qualified foreigner.
They also have pay a levy of up to $1,000 a month for each foreign staff.
That’s why many F&B outlets are closing, he said — not because of poor business, but because of lack of manpower.
S’poreans’ entrepreneurial spirit stymied: KF Seetoh
F&B is what he called “soft culture”, and it has much commercial potential too, Mr Seetoh argued.
But these manpower policies are stymieing the entrepreneurial spirit in our F&B industry and preventing growth, he said.
Pointing out that the F&B sector is one of those industries that can’t rely on purely digital workers, he added that without sufficient manpower, F&B outlets can’t grow.
And that’s why unlike the F&B businesses in Hong Kong, Singapore’s F&B operators aren’t as entrepreneurial, Mr Seetoh thinks, adding,
Right now, Singaporeans are just an educated crop looking for jobs created by foreigners.
Examples of F&B operators affected
Giving concrete examples of affected F&B operators, he cited 545 Whampoa Prawn Noodles at Tekka Food Centre.
Proprietor Li Ruifang was forced to get her elderly parents to help out at the stall, Mr Seetoh said, as she couldn’t get capable local manpower.
Ironically, her parents retired to pass the food stall to her — but found themselves back working there again.
Over at Kebabchi Charcoal BBQ at Makansutra Gluttons Bay, which serves up Pakistani food, the proprietor is also finding it difficult to expand his business.
That’s because he can’t find qualified locals to work in his stall — according to Mr Seetoh, our culinary students learn French food.
Mr Melvin Chew, of Jin Ji Teochew Braised Duck & Kway Chap at Chinatown Complex, has also found the manpower crunch challenging.
That’s why he had to resort to recruiting his elderly mother, who has illnesses, to help out at the stall.
KF Seetoh suggests ring-fencing F&B industry
As F&B business face tough manpower problems, Mr Seetoh urged the Government to ring fence the F&B industry, just like it does to the construction sector.
This means that just like how construction companies are able to hire massive amounts of migrant workers, the food sector should be allowed to do that too.
That’s better than the current system of having foreign-worker quotas and levies, he said, as the $7 billion in levies collected doesn’t help the industry at all.
After all, Singaporeans don’t want to do these jobs anyway, and it will help foster an entrepreneurial spirit in Singapore’s food sector, he added.
Food for thought for policymakers
The manpower crunch is a challenge that F&B operators have been facing for a long time, and Mr Seetoh being a fervent industry advocate is just voicing out their concerns.
However, should MOM use a one-size-fits-all playbook when it comes to all jobs in Singapore, or should the ministry adapt their policies towards industries that don’t see too many locals taking up jobs — like the F&B sector?
As jobs become an ever-more-important policy issue in the country, that’s food for thought for our policymakers to chew on.
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