Fears over foreign professionals: How best to put S’poreans first when it comes to jobs?

The Sunday Times

Sharing the sentiments of chamber leaders that Singaporeans are not lacking in technical ability, in areas such as science, banking and information technology, Mr Jeffrey Seah, partner at venture capital firm Quest Ventures, highlights that the reason for Singaporeans not landing these jobs is the mismatch in cultural fit and mindset.

“Singaporeans are not good at being comfortable in uncomfortable situations,” says Mr Seah.

But the inability to fit into the culture of certain firms may be an issue that is out of the hands of local job seekers, he suggests.

He cites a hypothetical example where a small tech company starts with hiring three foreigners with skill sets not available among local job seekers in Singapore.

During the company’s growth stage, they will hire non-tech staff in areas like finance and sales, which is also when the company’s culture and mindset take root.

“This is also when the balancing of hires (between locals and foreigners) should be actively encouraged,” Mr Seah says.

If by the time the company has 20 employees, and the super-majority are from one ethnicity or a foreign country, it would be difficult for the company to hire others, like Singaporeans, who need to adapt to the existing work culture. But importantly, it would also be difficult for policy intervention to enforce a hiring ratio without affecting the company’s operating culture, he adds.

In cases of tech start-ups that tend to involve a lot of teamwork, that cultural fit is integral, Mr Seah emphasises.


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