Why It Matters

Timely help for Singaporean PMEs

Office workers at Raffles Place on Feb 18, 2015.
Office workers at Raffles Place on Feb 18, 2015.ST PHOTO: DANIEL NEO

Newly minted Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say has been on the job for just two months, but it has been a busy period for him.

The former labour chief, who took over the Manpower Ministry (MOM) on May 4 , announced important measures on Wednesday to nudge firms to give jobless Singaporean professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) a better shot at jobs on the market.

From Oct 1, companies eyeing foreign PMEs will face tougher hiring rules.

But the Government will also offer wage subsidies to firms which hire Singaporeans aged 40 and above in jobs that pay at least $4,000 a month.

The measures are significant on three fronts.

First, the ranks of PMEs in the labour force are growing. The number of Singaporeans in professional, managerial, executive and technical (PMET) jobs will swell to 1.25 million in 2030, up from about 850,000 in 2013.

Second, Singaporean PMEs are bearing the brunt of economic restructuring. PMETs made up half the 12,930 job losses last year. Worryingly, three in five of the local PMETs laid off were older workers in their 40s and above. The MOM moves ought to bring some cheer to this group.

Third, Singaporean PMEs face significant competition for good jobs in the local market.

This is because unlike lower-level jobs where foreigners are hired on work permits and S passes which are subjected to quotas, there is no cap on the number of foreign professionals on Employment Passes that firms can hire.

In other words, companies can technically hire foreign PMEs without restraint.

With the carrot-and-stick approach, the Government has sent a clear signal that it is prepared to put pressure on firms, which is about as much as it can do apart from actually controlling their hiring processes.

The question, then, is whether this approach is enough to sway firms and how long it will take before Singaporean PMEs will start to benefit from the moves.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2015, with the headline 'Timely help for S'porean PMEs'. Print Edition | Subscribe