Cold Turkey

Has anyone ever gone cold turkey for a heroin or cocaine addiction? Is it tough? I think Singapore may have to go cold turkey within the next 10 years.

I’ve been to a lot of countries. Everywhere I’ve been, I see locals doing the hard work, the stuff our govt says Singaporeans don’t want to do, like construction and shipbuilding. I see lots of road works here in Japan– and it’s all done by Japanese. I see lots of hard hats in America– and they’re all Americans. I see German steel workers in Germany, etc. I even see locals in other countries doing the soft work that the govt says Singaporeans don’t want to do. I see English bus drivers in London, I see local waitresses in Switzerland– not Filipinos or PRC Chinese. Etc etc.

People in other advanced countries have long ago understood that blue collar jobs does not mean low pay or low pride. There’s no shame in being an electrician or a plumber, and truth be told, many of them earn good wages and have control over their own hours.

Singapore is different. Filipino telemarketers and F&B staff, Indian IT workers, Bangladeshi labourers, Indonesian maids, Chinese bus drivers, etc etc. We’re in an exclusive club with oil-rich countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and UAE, who all depend on foreign labour for such blue-collar work.

SMRT imports bus drivers by the bus load, houses them in dormitories with defined lights-off hours. These guys are expected to work long hours for low pay, with little time off. It’s like an Army camp or a prison! And once their contracts are over in two years (again like NS), they get an air ticket back home.

(For the Bangladeshis or Indian workers, it’s worse– because of complaints, employers now charter buses to ferry these workers to/from Little India during their off-days, so that they do not mingle with the rest of Singapore on public transport.)

This kind of low-salary foreign labour injection every two years is like living on steroids. It’s crazy, and it’s unsustainable.

It’s the prime reason why Singaporeans don’t want to become plumbers, electricians, bus drivers, hard hats, au pairs, etc– which other people in advanced countries have no qualms doing. We think these blue-collar jobs are beneath us, we do the paper chase so that we can do white-collar jobs.

But how long are these foreign workers going to work here, like digits in a factory? When they stop coming, who will take up these blue collar jobs? How will Singapore survive without them?

I don’t know how Singapore can deal with that, when the day of reckoning comes. It’s very painful for one drug addict to go cold turkey. Imagine if an entire nation of 5M people have to go cold turkey– no foreign maids, no foreign construction workers, no foreign F&B staff, no foreign bus drivers, etc. I don’t know how many Singaporeans will be ready, willing or able to take up such jobs.

Yes, it would mean wages for blue collar jobs would go up, but if you look at prices for hotels and restaurants in other advanced countries (UK, US, Australia, etc), you’ll find they are not much different from here. What it means is that the wage share of GDP will have to go up, while rentals and corporate profits will have to come down. That is going to be a tough pill for the Govt and its GLC’s to swallow.

However, if you look at the bright side, it would mean one would no longer have to be served by foreigners who don’t even understand the basics (like what two eggs mean when you order coffee), PRC bus drivers who can’t tell you where a place is, or irritating foreign telemarketers who insist on over-curling their r’s. 


About politicalwritings

Someone who sees beyond PAP and "opposition" in Singapore politics. To understand more please see the Top 10 link below.
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11 Responses to Cold Turkey

  1. You guys seriously don’t do any of your own blue collar jobs? What are you all, nuts?

  2. emptyzafu says:


    • Sorry to reply in English, but writing Chinese out here is difficult.

      While it is always easy to blame one man, I think the causes are more complex than that.

      We Chinese have always valued learning since ancient times. For instance, I’m sure you know we always looked up at those who have ‘read books’.

      We Chinese are also very competitive. Which is why we study so hard, we go for tuition etc. You may have heard that Korea basically stops during University exam entrance week. Same for the Japanese. So perhaps it’s not just a Chinese thing, but an Asian thing.

      Hence I don’t think it’s fair to blame one man for something which has been in the Chinese/Asian psyche for ages.

      However, what’s unusual is the belief the pap govt has that we need a certain population size, hence the need to build up infrastructure so rapidly. To do so, there is a need to supercharge everything, do things in rapid time, hence the large numbers of foreign labour needed. There is simply no way to achieve the PAP’s objectives by just relying on the indigenous workforce.

      • emptyzafu says:



      • emptyzafu says:



  3. ardeedee1 says:

    What the commentator has missed out and most Singaporeans reading this article may not realise is that many of these blue collar workers of foreign origin are signing for wages that is far more than what they really earn. They may be signing for $3000 and collecting only $1000 p/month. For the employer not only does he get a worker on the cheap he also saves on taxes. The workers have no means of raising issues as they need the job and may have had to pay outstanding loans to financial “backers” for their trip to Singapore etc.
    In Singapore the govt always think they cover all the bases but many employers have a different game in play.

  4. yuen says:

    > irritating foreign telemarketers

    these can be used without importing them so are different from the other items you mention

  5. theonion says:


    With robotics and offshoring, I am not too sure that your scenarios will played out except with a limited extent.
    Further, with the present system which is played out, I am not sure that there will be any effect as untrained human labour will remain cheap or needs to be cheaper except thru legislation as the cost of computing is likely to put out of work so called safe jobs coveted in the near future.

  6. Pingback: Cold Turkey | SING A POor REmi jingle |

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