From ‘ DPM Teo issues correction to Footnote in Population White Paper’, 8 Feb 2013, article in Today online
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean today issued a corrigendum to the Population White Paper in Parliament to delete a segment of a footnote that classified nursing as a low-skilled job. Mr Teo said, in the Notice of Corrigendum, that he intends to delete the part of Footnote 12 on Page 40 of the White Paper, which said: “Certain low-skilled jobs like personal services, retail, and nursing are hard to offshore. They will still be needed even as the economy upgrades.”
“This classification of low-skilled jobs is not correct. I would like to apologise to those whose professions have been unintentionally misrepresented,” said Mr Teo. He said he was alerted to the matter by “our friends in the nursing profession and unions”.
Adding that he has the “greatest respect” for the nursing profession, the DPM said it is a “noble and caring profession, which all of us and our loved ones depend on and appreciate”.
A ‘corrigendum’ is a fancy term for a ‘correction’, as in ‘Notice of Correction’ according to the White Paper website. It’s the kind of word you use to lessen the impact of a terrible mistake in Scripture, like saying that God made the world in 5 days instead of 6, although it sounds like an unused part of the large intestine. Having a longer word to substitute ‘error’ doesn’t make it any less heinous. It’s like the Emeritus of ‘sorry’.
The footnote now reads: ‘….slower growth in low skilled (e.g caring and cleaning) jobs’. I’m not sure if that was adequately ‘corrigendummed’. Anyone in the business of ‘caring and cleaning’, like a social worker in a hospice for example, would resent being labelled as ‘low skilled’. ‘Skill’ traditionally refers to how one performs a task with his hands. If we still lived in villages, the resident blacksmith would have been among the most ‘skilled’ of the lot. Today, a manager could be described as ‘highly skilled’ without having the slightest clue of how to forward or bcc emails. The difference is that one bangs a hammer to create fine artisan craft. The other bangs tables and chairs to frighten people into doing his bidding.
Changing diapers as social workers/babysitters/caregivers do for a living seems like an example of a proper skill to me, but perhaps all this boils down to a fundamental problem of semantics. We have low-skilled, unskilled and semi-skilled workers, a form of categorisation which replaced the blue-white collar distinction. How have the various scales of skill been defined, if at all? Am I unskilled if my ONLY task is to load and unload wheelbarrows with bricks and move them from one place to another? What if I’m a doorman at a really posh hotel whose only job is to open and close doors for guests? And why protest over nursing only, what about ‘retail’ and this ambiguous ‘PERSONAL SERVICES’? Is this a euphemism for PROSTITUTION? Patrons of sex workers would argue that some of their ‘service providers’ are more ‘skilled’ than their own wives.
And since when did OFFSHORE become a verb? Is this appropriate language for a Population policy paper, or was it edited by a business guru? Are we sending our low skilled workers to the Maldives? As expected, there were no names listed as to who authored or edited the White Paper, just a list of anonymous scribes from various ministries and government bodies who contributed to its publication under the ‘Acknowledgements’ page (like the Bible, perhaps). Among them was the Ministry of Manpower, who could be behind the footnote fiasco being the authority on labour. I wonder what level of skilled workers they got to write this rubbish.
But I don’t want to speculate. Corrigendums seem like hard work. I may have to OFFSHORE my corrective actions to another party.