When it comes to jobs in the banking sector, the challenge is not just to make sure that Singaporeans are adequately represented.
It is also important that they take on a good spread of positions, including the best jobs in the front office for treasury and trading, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday.
He added that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), together with the Ministry of Manpower, started "very active discussions" more than a year ago with banks here about their plans to develop the "Singapore core".
Mr Tharman, who is Finance Minister and MAS chairman, was speaking on the sidelines of a dialogue with Indian students at Hwa Chong Institution. He told reporters the local core in banking is "not just about numbers".
"It's about proactive career development, and making sure that Singaporeans are represented in the areas of the banks which are going to see growth opportunities," he said. "It's making sure there is a good spread of opportunities for Singaporeans within the different banking functions."
Without going into details, the minister said differences in hiring mixes between the banks have been observed. "Some of them have Singaporeans much better represented in the range of functions. In some others, Singaporeans tend to be very much in the middle and back office," he said.
His comments were sparked by a dialogue participant's concern that there were high numbers of foreigners in the financial sector.
In a similar vein, another student inquired about the role of international schools here. It was announced last year that new sites would be released by the Government for international schools.
After the dialogue, Mr Tharman explained that part of Singapore's competitiveness as a business centre is that children whose parents travel from other countries to work here can have an uninterrupted education at quality international schools.
But diversity is also important. "We are not keen on having too much expansion of schools that are only for one ethnic group or for one nationality," he said.
"For those who are PRs and those who are here in Singapore for the long term, we want as much as possible that their children go through our national schools," he added, noting that this has to be done in the "right proportions".
The dialogue for Indian students was held as part of the Singapore Indian Development Association's three-day seminar for youth leaders. Other topics discussed included national identity and the cost of living.