Why Filipinos have become the punching bag

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The case of the hate-filled blog which listed out how Filipinos should be treated because they cause overcrowding and steal the jobs of Singaporeans has forced the Philippine Embassy to make a police report.

It looks like the Filipinos are a favourite punching bag of some who take to the online world to express their anger.

But why single them out? Filipino workers are not the largest group of immigrants in Singapore.

The latest report by the Indian High Commission revealed that there are 400,000 Indian workers here, while there are only 172,000 Filipinos according to Yahoo Singapore.

Clement Mesenas, editor of Filipino community magazine Pinoy Star Magazine, tries to get to the bottom of the issue.

He says to The Independent Singapore: “It is mainly because of their visibility.

“Filipinos, apart from the domestic helpers, work in offices or become nurses. Many of them are customer service staff, too. So we see them every day.

“I visited Tuas dormitory for foreign workers once with my pastor. They were all construction workers from India, Bangladesh and China. It was so crowded that some of them eat their dinner by the roadside.

“I have no idea how they live their lives until I went to the dormitory. My point is, we don’t see the construction workers around us. In  that sense, they are invisible.

“But not the Filipinos, many of them occupy jobs in architecture, IT, and food and beverages sectors.”

Mesenas is a Singaporean, but his grandfather originated from the Philippines – that puts him in a unique position to connect with both the migrant workers and the locals.

“I have heard Filipinos complaining that Singaporeans do not want to work long hours. But I tell them not to say that. We have to understand that many Singaporeans have lost their jobs.

“Almost 40,000 PMETs have lost their jobs in recent years. Some have been displaced by foreigners who are willing to work for lower wages.

“This results in a lot of unhappiness and anger towards foreigners.” There are 100,000 Filipinos doing professional work in Singapore as of 2012.

Mesenas says: “People are using this [anti-foreigner sentiment] as a handle to beat the government. The government in recent years has allowed a large influx of foreign workers.”

He also says: “The biggest problem is that Singapore is an oasis of cheap labour. The reason is simple – to attract foreign businesses to come here.

“But businesses want cheap labour and Filipinos are willing to work for half the price.

“Many of them come here to earn a living. Once they make enough money, they want to go home to live comfortably.

“Their families do not live in Singapore, so they can afford the lower wages. But Singaporeans cannot afford that.”

Mesenas’ solution: The wages must be at a rate that Singaporeans will work for. So competition between locals and foreigners will be fair.

“Here, we promote work life balance for Singaporeans, but they have to compete for jobs with people [foreigners] who would do shifts work and get paid less.

“Wages and work must be balanced out.”