STI News: NTU wrong, 9 in 10 new jobs went to S'poreans
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NTU wrong, 9 in 10 new jobs went to S'poreans
by Sue-Ann Chia
ACTING Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday that Nanyang Technological University (NTU) economists were way off the mark by claiming that most new jobs created in the past five years had gone to foreigners.
The economists had said that three in four jobs had gone to foreigners, but the minister revealed that, in fact, nine in 10 new jobs went to Singaporeans and residents, and only one went to a foreigner.
He called a press briefing yesterday, after the findings by the NTU team, comprising former National Wages Council chairman Lim Chong Yah, Dr Tan Khee Giap and Dr Chen Kang, were reported in the media.
Dr Ng said he was disappointed by their report and did not mince his words when he criticised them for failing to verify their figures with his ministry or the Department of Statistics before going public with 'sensationalistic' claims.
Researchers were duty-bound to check, he said, adding: 'If your findings show something different or if it stands out, you want to be careful not to be sensationalist even if your figures are right.
'But if your figures are wrong, it is irresponsible: It is unprofessional to put out those figures and then when the damage is done, to expect others to check those findings.'
He also made public another set of government figures, some released for the first time.
Between the high-growth years of 1992 and 1997, there were 474,800 new jobs created - almost double the 250,000 figure cited by the NTU team. For every five jobs created, two went to residents and three to foreigners - quite different from the NTU team's claim that four jobs went to residents and one to a foreigner.
Then, during the downturn from 1997 to 2002, only 102,000 jobs were created, Dr Ng said, not 187,000 as claimed in the NTU report.
During that period, nine in 10 new jobs went to residents, and only one to a foreigner - again, a reversal of the NTU team's claim.
The economists called for a re-look at Singapore's dependence on foreigners, but Dr Ng defended the Government's foreign worker policy.
'As we look at our figures, our policies are correctly crafted,' he said.
'Foreign workers serve as a useful buffer. In good times, when there are plentiful jobs, they serve to meet the demand. In difficult times, they serve to moderate wages and increase the economic pie.'
Yesterday, the NTU economists stood by their findings.
In a statement signed only by Dr Tan and Dr Chen, they said they had studied statistics available in the Manpower Ministry's website.
'If our findings are not reflective of the actual situation, then the Ministry of Manpower has a duty to revise its statistics on the website,' they said.
'As professional economists who take a committed interest in the well-being of Singapore, we have never been sensational and will always be professional in our work.'
They also said that the figures revealed by the minister yesterday came from sources they did not have access to.
But ministry officials called a second press briefing yesterday evening and insisted that there was no way a properly conducted study of available data could have arrived at the NTU team's conclusions.
'Data in the public domain clearly provides an entirely different picture if used correctly,' said Ms Elizabeth Quah, director of the manpower policy and planning division.
She said the ministry was disappointed that the NTU economists refused to meet officials yesterday to explain their methodology and data sources.
But as the issue was of 'great concern and interest to the public, especially in this difficult employment market', the ministry felt it was best to explain how the discrepancies could have arisen.
Mrs Tan Leng Leng, director of manpower research and statistics, said the figures used by the NTU economists missed two factors: the construction industry and Malaysians who commute to Singapore to work.
Another figure, which should have set off 'alarm bells', was the low increase in residents' employment, which the NTU report put at only 46,100 for the last five years.
As a general rule of thumb, about 30,000 people join the workforce each year - after deducting those who retire, stop working or are retrenched. Multiply that by five years and the total should be 150,000.
What it all added up to, Ms Quah said, was that the NTU findings were 'totally flawed'.
'It is important for the public to understand the true picture and why the NTU team is wrong,' she said.