47 employers added to watch list over discriminatory hiring

Thirty of the employers are from financial and professional services sectors.
Thirty of the employers are from financial and professional services sectors.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

They include banks and fund managers with a high concentration of foreign professionals

A fresh group of 47 employers have been placed on the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) watch list for potentially discriminatory hiring practices.

They will have their Employment Pass (EP) applications for foreign hires closely scrutinised, and those who are recalcitrant or uncooperative will have their work pass privileges cut back.

The 47 are on top of 1,200 employers previously put on the watch list, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) yesterday.

Its update comes amid concerns from local job seekers that they are not getting a fair deal in a tough job market, and that some employers are biased against Singaporeans.

Of the newcomers, 18 have foreigners comprising more than half of their professional, manager, executive and technician (PMET) workforce. In addition, 30 of the employers from the financial and professional service sectors have a high concentration of PMETs from single nationalities.

These practices are a serious concern amid the Covid-19 pandemic, given that the overall unemployment rate rose to 2.9 per cent last month, the highest in more than a decade.

The FCF was introduced in 2014 to maintain a strong Singaporean core in PMET jobs, and sets out requirements for employers to consider the local workforce fairly for job opportunities.

Of the 47 employers newly placed on the watch list, 30 are in financial services and professional services, with the rest in administrative and support services, manufacturing and education. They vary in size, include banks, fund managers and management consulting firms, and the largest has almost 2,000 PMETs.

"While these firms were supporting local PMET employment, their workforce profiles raise concerns when compared to industry peers," said MOM, explaining that they had an exceptionally high proportion of foreign PMETs compared with their industry peers.

In one wealth management firm, almost three quarters were of the same nationality. In a bank, almost two-thirds were of the same nationality.

In addition to the 47 employers, MOM has identified another 240 for further investigation of possible pre-selection of foreigners, or not adhering to the spirit of FCF job advertising requirements.

NTUC assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay welcomed the "concrete" action, saying "such malpractices still abound". He called for "more robust measures such as publishing the names of these errant companies on the watch list".

 
 
 
 

Since 2016, 3,200 EP applications have been rejected or withheld by MOM, or withdrawn by the employers placed on the watch list. These employers have since hired more than 4,800 Singaporean PMETs.

"We will subject their hiring to closer scrutiny to ensure that there is no nationality bias against locals, which is unacceptable and not in line with fair, merit-based hiring," said the ministry.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo gave notice in January that employers would face stiffer penalties for discriminatory hiring practices, and could be prosecuted in court if they make false declarations on fair hiring consideration.

Errant employers will not be able to renew the work passes of existing employees during a debarment period. They also cannot apply for new work passes for at least 12 months - up from the previous minimum of six months. The debarment period can extend to 24 months for egregious cases.

MOM said that in these challenging times, "we will be extra vigilant against unfair hiring, to ensure that local job seekers are treated fairly".

It urged people to report specific instances of discriminatory behaviour, adding that whistle-blowers' identity will be kept confidential.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2020, with the headline '47 employers added to watch list over discriminatory hiring'. Print Edition | Subscribe