The New Year is barely five-days-old and Singapore’s patch of cyberspace is once again ablaze with self-righteous indignation.
Apparently, a Filipino radiographer at Tan Tock Seng Hospital “tweeted” something unfortunate about how the Filipino’s were taking jobs away from Singaporeans and were going to take away our promised land from the wimps that we are.
Singapore’s so called guardians of national pride are up in arms. The general refrain is that “how dare this Pinoy whom we gave his cushy job to insult us – fuck off back to Pinoy land if you don’t respect us.” The usual complaints about how the Filipino’s and other dark skinned Asians don’t know how lucky we Singaporeans are has allowed them to come in and work at wages that they could only dream off.
The comments that were made, were indeed rude. They were insulting to Singaporeans and let’s face it, no host likes being insulted.
Having said that, they were stupid remarks and should probably be left there. You could say the guy is an arsehole and leave it at that.
What we should not do is to try and get ourselves worked up over the presence of the Filipino community in Singapore, which is the community responsible for helping us enjoy the cushy things that we do. Whatever one may think of the Singapore government, one has to admit that our physical infrastructure is pretty darn good – it’s actually comparable to anything you get in the developed nations of Western Europe or the USA. What we should remember is that someone has to maintain it and keep things going and that task falls heavily on the Filipino Community.
I’ve worked in a restaurant for the past two years. The restaurant business is great place to see how things function in Singapore. We, as a well to do nation enjoy the fine things in life. Singapore’s national pastime as they say is having a good meal. As we become more affluent, we start to appreciate finer dining establishments, serving things like good steak and a nice bottle of wine. If I take a look at who the big spenders at the restaurant are, I’d say that there is an increasing number of local Singaporeans. Yes, the Expats spend more on average but local Singaporeans can no longer be counted as bread and butter customers.
Unfortunately, you need people to keep things moving. The restaurant business is a people business and despite the technological advances we’ve made, you still need people to serve you, cook the food and wash the plates. This is a business that is notorious for long hours and low pay (As stated a few times before, I’ve made more from writing a single press release than I have in a month of working in the restaurant).
Herein lies the rub – there’s work to be done but it is physically demanding and the pay is nothing to shout about. You live with the fact that your busiest hours are everyone else’s rest periods. This combination makes the job terribly unappealing to Singaporeans with more than two brain cells.
So, who steps in to do the work? In the case of Singapore’s restaurants it’s usually the Filipinos. The community has become essential to the backbone of Singapore’s food and beverage industry. Go into any dinning establishment and chances are you will be severed by a Filipino.
What you won’t see is the fact that the Filipino chap will often be the most overworked and underpaid person in the establishment. If you think of small establishments, you’ll find that the Filipino is often the chap who has worked in both the kitchen and the service line. As well as working as the waiter and kitchen helper, he will also have to double up as electrician, plumber and general repair man. This is the chap who works 12 hours a day, six days a week and does so without much complaint.
By contrast, you have the Singaporeans who won’t take on fifty percent of the jobs that are available. I’m not talking about people with pots of money who shun these jobs. The people who shun the jobs on offer, are the very people who could do with the money. In Singapore’s rather strange definition of “pride,” these are the people who are too proud to be seen to scrub dishes in the kitchen but are proud enough to ask you to top up their bus cards and buy them a few beers.
The most common excuse that these chaps give for not wanting to do jobs that are done by the Pinoys and other Asians is the fact that they can’t afford to work them. Wages are too low for them and apparently you can’t support a family on the wages that are on offer. However, the guys who make these statements are the guys who haven’t supported their families in years and somehow they’ve got the idea that no pay is better than low pay
That’s at the most extreme. If you get Singaporeans entering the industry, you’ll find that they’re the least inclined to work properly. I think of my Christmas in 2014. I wasn’t scheduled to work the lunch shift. However, I got a call begging me to come down to help out. The reason was simple, the Italian and Pinoy that I work with were overwhelmed with customers. Their assistant was Jie-Jie-Ka-Ni-Na (Hokkien for Older Sister Motherfucker). Jie-Jie’s idea of help was sit by the cash register and avoid trying to push buttons in the cash register. After two attempts at pushing buttons, the young lady in question was about to go into cardiac arrest from overwork. My presence in the restaurant helped boost morale or rather it was the fact that I showed up, carried three dishes and reminded Jie-Jie-Ka-Ni-Na that there is no such job title as “Bosses Wife.”
Sad to say, what I’ve seen doesn’t stay in the restaurant business. It applies to many crucial industries. Take nursing as an example. Everyone wants to be a hot shot doctor. Nobody wants to be a nurse and so, where do we get the nurses from? We got to get them from elsewhere.
Like it or not, we’re an island filled with “Proud” people who won’t lower themselves to do “menial” work, no matter how bad their personal situation. As such, the reality is that we do need to get people from elsewhere to do basic jobs.
You might not like the presence of Pinoy’s, Bangla’s, PRC Chinese at al in Singapore but unless you’re willing to do the jobs, they’re here to stay.