Sad ride for Jeffrey Khoo, sadder life for the Grab driver.
In a Facebook post, Jeffrey Khoo, a Progress Singapore Party (PSP) member, shared a recent Grab ride where he had a conversation with his driver, a former NUSS member and graduate who had “fallen on hard times”.
The driver claimed to have been a “commercial director at a large MNC” who then “left his job to start his own venture”. However, this failed to come to fruition, and he struggled to secure a job.
At 48, he now drives for Grab and has lost hope in finding a full-time job.
When Mr Khoo suggested the driver attend courses to gain more skills, he said he had “children to feed and bills to pay”. Essentially, he had no time to attend a course—he needed a job now.
The driver’s final comment was about how even though he felt he was more suited to a management position because of his seniority and experience, most managerial roles in Singapore were given to foreigners, not Singaporeans.
Here’s the post:
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An Ongoing Trend
Unfortunately, this driver’s story is not unique, and many are experiencing the same troubles.
Due to COVID-19 triggering the global job crisis, many workers have faced retrenchment and are without job prospects.
With the need to feed families and make a living, ex-workers are now taking to food deliveries and driving to make money.
However, as the job crisis drags on, there are no signs of these workers finding jobs similar to their previous ones.
What seemed to be an industry for unstable and low-skilled jobs, the gig economy is now the only support some Singaporeans face to keep themselves afloat.
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Do the Ps in PSP Stand for Populism?
PSP is a party that has been accused of some populist stances and anti-foreigner rhetoric.
Finance Minister Lawrence Wong has called PSP out for their “strong racist and xenophobic undertones” in their campaign against CECA in 2021.
Populism is the idea that society is split into two camps: “the pure people” and “the corrupt elite” (as defined by Cas Mudde, author of Populism: A Very Short Introduction).
In the context of Mr Khoo’s post, there is a tinge of populism as the driver accuses foreigners of taking management positions. There is a divide drawn between the Singaporean (whose job prospects are being strangled by the influx of foreigners) and the foreigner (the supposed evil who has come and ruined the Singaporean’s life).
This sense of distrust and competition can encourage xenophobia as people vie for jobs during this harsh economy.
A survey by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) in 2021 found that roughly half of the 2,000 Singaporeans and PRs they surveyed strongly believe that immigrants took jobs away from local Singaporeans and that the government has spent too much money assisting immigrants.
The anti-foreigner rhetoric remains strong in Singapore.
However, this is a dangerous path to go down.
As Mr Wong said in his speech during the CECA debate, Singapore cannot turn inwards as it needs to stay open and connected to survive as a small island nation.
Singapore’s strategy is to “stay open and connected to the world, to create more jobs and uplift all Singaporeans”. The government is also taking “concrete measures to deal with the downsides of an open economy—manage the inflow of workers, tackle discrimination at the workplace, and look after the minority who are displaced.”
Real Issue or Populist View
The story of the Grab driver, as shared by Mr Khoo, is undoubtedly a real issue that many other Singaporeans face.
However, in handling the job crisis and in the future, the view Singaporeans take that foreigners are stealing jobs must adjust for Singapore to prosper in an increasingly globalised world.
The overlapping layers featured in Mr Khoo’s post prove how complicated and intertwined the job crisis is and how Singapore must tread carefully in overcoming it.
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