Why It Matters

Hiring boost for S'poreans

From September, foreigners working in Singapore will have to earn more before they can apply to bring their families here.

Those who want to bring their spouses and children here will have to earn at least $5,000 a month, up from $4,000. The minimum monthly salary for those who want their parents to join them here will be $10,000 , up from $8,000.

The salary bars have risen by 25 per cent. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has downplayed the move as a periodic update of its visa sponsorship criteria, but the timing and extent of changes are anything but routine. The move comes on the back of a string of recent measures to control the inflow and raise the quality of the foreign workforce.

Just two weeks ago, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say announced that firms looking to hire foreign professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) will come under tougher hiring rules, including having their hiring practices scrutinised if they are deemed not to be committed enough to hiring Singaporeans.

Also, while the higher salary bars are ostensibly to make sure foreigners can finance the upkeep of their families, they also send a signal about the kinds of foreigners that Singapore wants to attract to sink roots here. A statement on MOM's website gives a hint of its thinking: "We assess the level of dependant privileges... based on his economic contribution and whether he can finance his dependants' stay in Singapore." The ministry added that the privilege applies to "higher skilled foreign professionals". Not just skilled, but highly skilled ones - the signal cannot be any clearer.

Some foreigners who will soon be unable to bring their families here might decide not to come at all. This will open the window for Singaporeans to fill their shoes - removing some of the sting from foreigners perceived to be taking away PME jobs.

Since hiring cycles take months or even a year to stabilise, it may be some time before the impact of the latest move is felt. While some may argue it could have come sooner, it is nonetheless a step in the right direction to give Singaporeans a leg up.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2015, with the headline 'Hiring boost for S'poreans'. Print Edition | Subscribe