PARLIAMENT

MP Patrick Tay proposes limit on PME numbers for firms that do not hire enough Singaporeans

Pedestrians at One Raffles Quay near Shenton Way.
Pedestrians at One Raffles Quay near Shenton Way. PHOTO: ST FILE

Companies that do not hire enough Singaporean professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) should be given a limit on the number of foreign professionals they can hire, Mr Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC) said yesterday.

Calling it the PME dependency ratio, he said it is akin to the restrictions employers face for hiring foreigners with low- to mid-level skills. Stricter conditions should also be imposed on these firms when they apply for employment passes for their foreign PMEs, the labour MP said.

At the same time, companies should be encouraged to retrench local PMEs last when they have to downsize. These measures will counter nationality bias in the workplace, which still exists in the IT and financial sectors, and encourage employment of Singaporeans over foreigners, said Mr Tay.

The economy needs to be led by local PMEs in order for them "to fully exploit the labour market and yet be able to fully realise their potential and skills", he said.

Newcomer Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) had similar concerns. More PMEs are approaching the Employment and Employability Institute for help, with 337 people registering for its programmes last year. This is an increase from the 128 in 2014, he noted. Retrenched PMEs often struggle to find jobs that match their last-drawn salaries and they end up with lower-paying jobs, he said.

Mr Saktiandi said PMEs with specialised skills need to be redeployed to suitable fields of work.

Companies also have to be more open to hiring older professionals.

One way he suggested was to match PMEs with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which make up the majority of companies here. This "makes great sense", he said, as SMEs face high labour costs, manpower shortage and increasing competition.

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) observed that Singaporeans are getting retrenched more often. She proposed a radical idea: each time a company lays off a Singaporean worker, the Government should cancel a work pass given to the firm for hiring a foreign worker.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2016, with the headline 'Plea to limit foreign PME numbers'. Print Edition | Subscribe