MOM versus SDP on PMET retrenchments: Using statistics to make arguments, “with less heat and more light”

Number of PMET retrenchments

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Shannon Ang, a sociology graduate student at the University of Michigan, penned a case study on the number of PMET (professionals, managers, executives, and technicians) retrenchments in Singapore, which was at the centre of the legal case between the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP). Ang’s piece is not focused on the court’s decision or on taking sides, but is instead premised upon the better use of statistics to make arguments.

After presenting a chart of Singapore’s PMET retrenchment rate over time (above), he highlights the significance of different lengths of trends and start or end points, especially in relation to the subsequent narratives which can be crafted. For both the MOM and the SDP (and perhaps as a guide for future cases), Ang concludes that there should be justification for the importance of short- and long-term trends, explanation for these trends, more direct engagement between the parties, as well as greater statistical rigour:

“It’s one thing to look at a few numbers and argue whether the line has gone up or down. But it would be another if the MOM or the SDP could have statistically modelled, for instance, the probability that employers choose locals over foreigners, all else being equal (e.g., education, experience, etc.). This would directly address the allegations of locals being passed over for foreigners.”

Read the full case study on his website, “Singapore Society in Numbers”, a compilation of resources to advance quantitative social science in the country.

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