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Like CECA expats, S'porean Chinese-dominated companies would hire their own kind too

Jul 09, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

Criticism of the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) is once again in the spotlight with Progress Singapore Party's (PSP) Leong Mun Wai taking the lead in calling for CECA to be reformed.

Leong, an ex-banker and current NCMP wants a "rebalancing" of Singaporeans' interests against those of expatriates (specifically Indian nationals) in professional, managerial, executive and technician (PMET) roles.

CECA, which was signed with India in 2005, is being blamed by disgruntled netizens for job losses by Singaporean PMETs to Indian nationals.

Reports of Indian expatriates forming enclaves in the various companies they work in and only hiring their own have led to netizens referring to CECA hotspots such as the Changi Business Park and Marina Bay Financial Centre as Chennai Business Park and Mumbai Financial Centre respectively.

Singaporean Chinese prefer hiring their own kind too

According to a 2019 survey by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), 80.2 per cent of Chinese respondents indicated that language was sometimes important, important most of the time or always important when hiring someone to work for them.

The figures for Malay and Indian respondents were significantly lower at 71.5 per cent and 73.2 per cent respectively, suggesting that Singaporean Chinese are more likely to form their own racial enclaves in a job setting.

IPS researcher Dr Mathew Mathews, a senior research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy told CNA that in a job environment where the majority of workers are more comfortable using a certain language, there might be an interest to hire those who speak the language.

“There is a sense that when people speak the same language, everyone understands each other better and there will be less misunderstanding. However this can lead to a preference to only recruiting people who are similar, and excluding others who can legitimately contribute,” he added.

Singaporean minorities feel more discriminated against when applying for jobs

The proportion of Malay and Indian respondents who said they felt discriminated against when applying for jobs has increased since 2013.

In the survey, a large proportion of minorities - 73 per cent of Malays, 68 per cent of Indians and about half of Others, which includes Eurasians - felt that they had experienced discrimination when it came to applying for a job.

In contrast, 38 per cent of Chinese respondents felt that way, according to the research findings.

Dominant race now feels what it's like to be a minority in the workforce

Sociologist Tan Ern Ser said he believes the findings of the IPS survey are statistically significant.

“Statistically speaking, there are reasons to suspect that Chinese are indeed more likely to give more weight to language and race, compared to non-Chinese.”

Associate Prof Tan noted that this may be related to how companies in Singapore today still specify Mandarin as a "good-to-have" or "recommended" skill for jobs even when it is not necessary.

“The discrimination could be related to the extent to which they believe they can trust or communicate with non-Chinese staff, and the extent to which their majority Chinese customers would prefer to be served by a Chinese staff,” he said.

“Such practices are harmful as they violate our core values of meritocracy and multiracialism, which means that minorities could be deprived of a job, despite having the right credentials.”

1 in 5 youths in Singapore has experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime

Jul 21, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

One in seven people in Singapore have experienced a mental disorder such as bipolar disorder or alcohol abuse in their lifetime, more than three-quarters did not seek any professional help.

The top three mental disorders here were major depressive disorder, alcohol abuse and obsessive compulsive disorder. This is based on the finding of the second Singapore Mental Health Study by the Institute of Mental Health, which started in 2016 and involved interviews with 6,126 Singaporeans and permanent residents.

In the same study, youths between 18 to 34 years were presented as the most vulnerable group - one in five would have experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime.

The study was conducted on 6,126 participants, representing the population, between 2016 and 2018 in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Nanyang Technological University. It was funded by MOH and Temasek Foundation

One in 43 people has had a psychotic disorder in their lifetime

Psychotic disorders may involve one or more of the following:

  • Delusions, which are the fixed belief in something that is not true.
  • Hallucinations, which are sensations that are not real, such as seeing things that are not there.
  • Disorganised thoughts, making a person's speech difficult to follow with no logical connection.
  • Abnormal motor behaviour, which includes inappropriate or bizarre postures, or a complete lack of response to instructions.

The most common psychotic disorder in Singapore was schizophrenia, with about one in 116 - or 26,800 people - having been diagnosed with it at some point in their lives.

Treatment gap of 11 years between first experience to seeking help

Respondents cited a “treatment gap” of 11 years as the median time between when they first experienced symptoms and when they sought help for obsessive compulsive disorder.

It was four years for bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse, two years for generalised anxiety disorder and one year for major depressive disorder.

According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), from 2017 to 2019, an average of 12,600 patients aged 15 to 34 years sought treatment for mental health conditions at public hospitals each year.

Current approaches to treating mental health conditions

Broadly, there are two approaches for treating mental health conditions: Medication and psychotherapy - both of which can be used on its own without another, with different effects on an individual.

“Medication reacts differently for different individuals even if it’s the same condition - a certain medication may work perfectly well for one, but for another it can have more complicated side effects,” said Mr Jackie Tay, the executive director of PSALT Care, a registered charity and mental health recovery centre.

On the other hand, psychotherapy and counseling involve the “human factor” or the social connection between the clinician and the patient.

“It’s the chemistry and connection - some patients would connect better with certain styles of therapists. You also need to navigate around that,” said Tay.

As such, the continuum of care for mental health conditions can also be long, intensive and complicated. For example, one young adult whom CNA spoke to likened the process of finding suitable treatment to finding a soulmate on matchmaking sites like Tinder. Kevin agreed.

“It's not like maths, where you have a correct answer. You have to slowly find what works for you,” he said.

More seeking help

Mr Asher Low, executive director of Limitless, a non-profit organisation that deals with youth mental health, said the organisation has seen over 250 new clients seeking help so far this year - 13 more than the number of new clients for the whole of last year.

"Quite a number of our existing clients deteriorated because they lost access to coping activities and social support, or were stuck at home in an unconducive environment, such as (one with) poor family relationships or abusive parents," he said.

But it is not just the young whose mental well-being has suffered due to the pandemic.

O'Joy, a voluntary welfare organisation looking after the mental health of seniors, saw a 26 per cent increase in the number of clients in August and last month compared with the same period last year.

O'Joy clinical director Teo Puay Leng said seniors who are still working may be anxious about losing their jobs and being unable to find another one in the current economic climate, while others are affected by their loved ones getting retrenched.

Those who are used to taking part in outdoor activities have also become anxious as they have had to stay home on their own, she said.

Meanwhile, Samaritans of Singapore - which focuses on suicide prevention - received 26,460 calls for help from January to August this year, up from 21,429 in the same period the year before.

Chief executive Gasper Tan said callers sought help for issues arising from the economic impact of Covid-19, stress from having to adapt to telecommuting and home-based learning, and social relationships affected by the virus situation.

Better mental help awareness

Ms Joy Hou, principal psychologist at EmpathyWorks Psychological Wellness, who saw an almost 20 per cent increase in clients, said that while the increase may be in part due to Covid-19 taking its toll, it could also point to greater awareness of mental health issues and reduced stigma in seeking professional help.

IMH senior consultant Jimmy Lee echoed the sentiment by saying that the increase in help-seeking behaviour during this period is "a good thing".

Dr Lee said that the crisis has resulted in various mental health organisations coming up with new initiatives such as virtual seminars, new helplines being set up, and people learning to identify and help those in distress.

"I think this is a good opportunity... People are concerned about the mental health needs of various aspects of the population," he said.

Mental Health Helplines

National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868

Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444

Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019

Institute of Mental Health's Mobile Crisis Service: 6389-2222

Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800

Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928

Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788