20 November 2006

NS and Employment

Singapore's most famous reservist.
Recognise him?

See article below - here is a recurring problem that will grow worse and worse over the years, as the number of PRs, foreigners and adults-turned-new-citizens steadily grows in Singapore.

The writer is wrong to think that only small companies may tend to avoid hiring Singaporean men. The same problem would exist for any job where the individual performs a specialised function such that it isn't easy for someone else to just step in halfway and take over for two or three weeks.

I myself was once asked point-blank at a job interview what kind of SAF vocation I had, how often I would be called up each year, and for how long etc. Fortunately I am blessed with a congenital heart disorder and need not do reservist duties any more.
    ST Nov 20, 2006
    NS stint may hinder job prospects for S'poreans

    WHEN I started business in the motor trade a couple of years ago, I was surprised that many companies are reluctant to employ Singaporeans for several reasons. One of the main ones is that most male Singaporeans have to serve two to three weeks' reservist training every year.

    As a Singaporean, I understandably want to support my own people and give our men an opportunity. So my company went against the grain by employing one permanent resident and one Singaporean where most other companies go with PRs.

    Both were equally hard working and resourceful. However, the Singaporean had in-camp training and when he failed his individual physical proficiency test (IPPT), he had to go for further training which meant that he had to leave work early. No such thing with PRs.

    Although the Government reimburse the employee during reservist training, a company employs someone because of his contribution to its profitability. Does the Government take loss of business into consideration?

    Small companies do not have the financial strength to bear the loss. Does this mean male Singaporeans can work only in large companies?

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Anonymous said...

NS - The biggest tax payable by able-bodied Singaporean men.

In comparison, the GST seems minuscule.

Anonymous said...

Hey maybe we all should learn how to play the piano- then we can get off by paying a nominal fee?

Anonymous said...

I am of the opinion that women should do NS as well.

PR's should be allowed to be drafted at any time.

Anonymous said...

I follow this blog intermittently. In this time I've only come across one comment defending NS. Sounds like it's time the government rethinks the whole thing. It's so unpopular it's driving Singaporeans to emigrate out of frustration.

Like Mr Wang I work in an MNC with offices all over the world. Some time ago I went to legal for assistance on a document, only to find that the chap was on reservist. Luckily our support functions are duplicated in other hub centres, and the guys in London and Hong Kong were around, to cover for their colleague.

The global environment we live in is a reality, and if Singaporean men are forced to spend 5% of the working year out of the office, then they are at least 5% less efficient.

PAP wants to compete with London, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong. None of these places have compulsary national service (although most used to), so it makes sense that Singapore should follow suit. Does it make sense to disadvantage your own population like this?

Recruit Ong said...

Hahaha mr wang, so funny that u say your heart problem is a blessing! It should be unfortunate but hey this is so true isn't it? You damn lucky, can get pes E man! \^^/

NS is killing Sporeans!

L'oiseau rebelle said...

>>PR's should be allowed to be drafted at any time.

In the U.S., male green card holders of a certain age (I'm not sure of exact numbers, but approximately less than 30 years old) have to be on the draft. Well, you can choose to not be on the draft, but it will pose a huge problem when you apply for citizenship.

But then, if Bush ever needs to resort to the draft, we'll all be in trouble anyway.

Unknown said...

Who is that Chow Corporal in that photo, nabeh!

Mind My Wealth said...

I think PR's must be made to defend Singapore in other ways and not have to wait until their sons (if they have, even) to chose whether to do NS like the rest of us. They enjoy the fruits of a safe place to earn a decent living(presumably more than their homeland otherwise they won't be here rite?), so why can't we make them do 'reservists' duties like Civil Defense?
The World Has Changed and I don't think the authorities want to believe it. We are to fend for ourselves in the corproate world with this Reservist duties tag on our jobs! I say make if fairer to us citizens. If not for us, who does the elected work for? No Free Lunch!

Anonymous said...

Heh, "blessed with a congenital heart disorder".

L'oiseau rebelle: Well, the draft's still a remote prospect. But what do you know, it's a Democrat that's now in a position to push for it.

Anonymous said...

"I am of the opinion that women should do NS as well.

PR's should be allowed to be drafted at any time."

This does not make sense. 50% of the population feels marginalized because they have to do NS. The solution is not to spread the misery to the previously unaffected 50%.

And drafting PR is impossible. If that happens foreign companies will leave Singapore for another country with friendlier labour laws. Immediate destinations are probably Hong Kong, Shanghai or Tokyo. Second tier competitors could be Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur (the Malaysian government would love to grab the regional financial hub title from Singapore).

Singapore without the MNC would be an industrial port town. Something like a cross between Port Klang and JB.

The solution is either to make the NS experience more relevant carrerwise (pretty difficult for such a large group), or else to abolish it altogether. Reducing it is a compromise that might work, but the government needs to reduce the footprint it's leaving on your careers.

Anonymous said...

I've always thought PR was the one of the cleverer schemes the government worked out.

I was educated largely at the expense of another country. Since I got here I pay the same taxes everyone else does. If I am not gainfully employed (i.e. paying taxes) for 3 years out of any 5 year period, the government reserves the right to cancel my re-entry permit, effectively sending me packing.

This means the maximum amount of time I can spend here without paying taxes is about 3 years. It also means that the moment I retire and become a burden on the social network (paid for with my taxes) the government sends me packing.

Basically I can stay here as long as Singapore earns taxes on me, but have to leave the moment I become a cost.

Can someone please explain to me how I'm free loading?

Azmodeus said...

To just another FT,

I guess plato's view of a PR freeloading, isn't in the sense of taxes. But of an NS liability which every able bodied Singaporean male have to serve. One as Mr Wang had mentioned, probably hindered Singaporean males' job prospects within the local market.

When putting into perspective, I do tend to agree if I am an SME employer, with key contracts on the line which could make or break my business, I definitely would not wish to have my key people run off for 2-3 weeks serving NS. It becomes a liability for my business, and so it becomes a concern to me when I hire them.

Thus, I think this is what plato is referring to in what he means by free lunch. Better prospects in the job market against Singaporean males, a liability not of our own making, but of policy. This, I feel is something which should be looked at by our government in order to maintain Singaporeans' competitiveness within this new globalised economy.

And thus, I don't think we mean any offense to you jaFT. I personally do agree with you that it is only logical to reduce its potential lag on Singaporean's competitiveness. Though I doubt we'll abolish NS in the name of national defense.

Jimmy Mun said...

"Just Another FT",

I thank you for supporting the abolishment of NS, because our government takes your suggestions far more seriously than the "complains" of the citizens. But it will not happen, not because of national defence needs, but because NS is a source of cheap labour. Absent NS, the government will have to raise taxes to make ends meet.

To illustrate the point, perhaps I can offer you an opportunity to serve NS too. You can keep doing what you do, but you contribute two years worth of your income, less $500 a month to the Singapore government. ($500 a month is very generous, considering new recruits only get $300.)

The minimum wage for an FT like you should be $2500, so two years worth should be around $48k. Does that hurt? I suppose it should. But then, you still enjoy the total freedom to do whatever you like to do, you are advancing your career, go home everyday, need not live in fear of being yelled at/punished with extra weekend duties/sent to detention/breaking an arm or leg/get paralysed by a wayward bullet, and if you dont like the face of your boss, can choose to quit anytime. You can even leave Singapore if you want to without being hunted down as a fugitive.

$48k is just purely the monetary aspect, and is probably a gross underestimation of your earning power, but it still hurts, doesnt it? With that in mind, tell me again you are paying the same taxes as Singapore citizens.

takchek said...

Mindef's reply to that forum letter; I had expected a similar one from them. As predicted, it did not answer/help to soothe the worries posed by Mr Sylvester Lim Teck Hee.


Nov 24, 2006
Shorter full-time NS, shorter ICT commitment

I REFER to Mr Sylvester Lim Teck Hee's letter, 'NS stint may hinder job prospects for S'poreans' (ST, Nov 20).

The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) recognise the great responsibility that all male Singaporeans shoulder in fulfilling their national service (NS) obligations. Strong support from family members and employers of our NSmen goes a long way in helping our citizen-soldiers fulfil their national duty. Operationally- ready NSmen are the backbone of Singapore's security, which forms the basis for our economic prosperity.

Mindef is conscious of the need to optimise the time that NSmen spend in training. Regular reviews are made to minimise the disruptions caused by NS. Besides having reduced the duration of full-time NS, Mindef has also recently reduced NSmen's in-camp training (ICT) commitment, from 13 years to 10.

Within the 10-year NS cycle, NSmen can be called for up to seven high-key and three low-key annual ICTs.

In low-key years, NSmen are called up for fewer than seven days each year, whereas in high-key years, they are generally called up for about two weeks annually. Adequate training is necessary to ensure an operationally- ready SAF.

NSmen have to remain fit in order to defend the nation. Mindef recently introduced the IPPT Preparatory Training (IPT) to help servicemen prepare for their IPPT. Those who complete the IPT programme need not take the remedial training programme, even if they do not pass their IPPT. Instead, they can train on their own to pass the test.

Initiatives such as the IPT give NSmen greater flexibility to balance their work, family and NS commitments.

Mindef and the SAF very much value the support of families and employers for our citizen-soldiers. Their support is vital to the defence and security of Singapore.

Col Benedict Lim
Director of Public Affairs
Ministry of Defence

Anonymous said...

1) Yes, NS for FT will affect talent attraction.

2) But sincere PRs (supposedly people who wanna stay, those we are looking for) will want to know, experience every part of being Singaporean, hence NS will be an attraction, not deterant to them. The "stepping stone" cheapo foreigners can be weeded out this way.

3) Either we treat Singaporeans better or treat Singaporeans and foreigners equal. Not treat foreigners better.

Iz Chan said...

I don't think anyone can deny the fact that we NEED reservist. with the rapidly changing technology we have today, NSmen need to stay relevant not just in the office, but also on the battlefield. remember, without these (us) soldiers, there might be no singapore, much less MNCs and what have you.

having said that, i believe singaporean companies should do their utmost to accomodate reservists, and not disadvantage them because of it. Instead of looking at the 3.84% of time less, look at the defence and security they bring as part of the greater picture. After all, if your own 'family' cannot undersatnd or support you, who else will?

Bharathan said...

Hi there, I am one of those first generation PRs and obviously my children will have to go through the the NS era.

I have been hearing many bads of NS - not just burdening on the career of the singaporeans like you all have discussed itself, but the 2-year full-time training itself. I keep hearing that the children (I must address them so) are treated like animals.

Most of those who I know had ambitions about joining NS but once they joined they regret to the core. May be they were misguided by the soft stay-in-camps at schools. I also heard that food (especially if you have restricted diets such as strict Vegetarion for buddhist) is definitely a problem.

Worst was when I heard that these 2nd generation PRs are not given better positions (such as getting in OCS or so) as they are not 'what-they-have-to-be'.

How far are these true? Since there is no clear picture, even PRs who are willing to be part of the nation become quite reluctant to do so. Are they any reliable resources to clear such air on some of the parent's heads?

Jonathan Wong said...

"Fortunately I am blessed with a congenital heart disorder"

It is quite sad when we live in a country where the phrase above is actually a valid statement to make.

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