Friday 7 December 2012

China's job agencies say Singapore no longer the preferred work destination

By Valarie Tan, Channel NewsAsia, 5 Dec 2012

Job agencies in China say recruiting workers for Singapore has become increasingly difficult over the past five years as the wage gap between the two countries has narrowed.

And the fallout from the recent illegal strike by SMRT bus drivers from China is now deterring some from applying to work in Singapore.

Unfair and unjust - these are just some of the comments posted by Chinese internet users on Weibo after a former Chinese SMRT bus driver received a six-week jail sentence for taking part in an illegal strike in Singapore.

But some also felt that the drivers' behaviour was unreasonable, and called for more to be done to prepare Chinese workers before they go overseas.

"For the purpose of work, understand the laws of the country and the related rules, I think that's normal, and necessary."

"Before they leave the country, human resource companies should do some training in these areas in China before sending the workers out."

Recruiters in China said the majority of Chinese blue-collar workers in Singapore come from Jiangsu, Shandong and Liaoning where there's an abundance of manpower.

One agency in Jiangsu said it conducts a preparatory course for Chinese workers moving to Singapore for work.

Mr Lin Hai, General Manager of Jiangsu Huaian YunHai International Labour, said: "When they apply for work, I'll introduce Singapore's situation to them, let them understand that the 'Garden City' name is just the general environment. But work-wise, Singapore's efficiency is very high, you can't bring China's standards over, which means you have to do everything quickly."

But Mr Lin, whose agency was set up in 2006, said it has become increasingly difficult to recruit Chinese workers for Singapore companies.

He said salaries in Singapore are now almost on par with what workers would get if they stay in China. 

And the latest bus driver incident has deterred some considering Singapore as a work destination.

Mr Lin said: "For example, in construction. They can get about 7,000-8,000 RMB each, a contractor can get 10,000 and more. In Singapore, a worker is paid 8,000-9,000 RMB. So if a Chinese construction worker can get this much staying here, it won't be worth it for him to travel far. So they usually won't choose to go to Singapore. Now, if they apply for work, when you mention Singapore, they don't want to go. Unless they have friends or relatives there but those are in the minority. So it's a challenge trying to recruit workers for Singapore."

Job agencies said skilled labour workers now prefer to work in Europe, Japan and South Korea over Singapore for work because they get three to five times more for the same position.

And with the growth of internet use and social media in China, workers including those in the rural areas are becoming more aware of labour laws and workers' rights, therefore making them more choosy about their workplace destination choices.

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