The recent move requiring companies to prove they tried to hire Singaporeans first before turning to foreigners is a strong signal from the Government that firms should not settle for the "easy option", Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob said on Sunday.
"This is the first major signalling (by the Government)...that you must give priority to Singaporeans," said the veteran unionist. "If you look at our history, from the time we became independent to now... we have not had such a signalling."
Madam Halimah, who is MP for Jurong GRC, was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the official launch of a new social service hub for senior citizens in Bukit Batok East.
Under the new measures which will take effect in August next year, all companies with more than 25 employees must advertise professional, manager and executive (PME) posts that pay less than $12,000 a month, at a new government-run jobs bank. The advertisements have to run for at least 14 days before they can apply to the Ministry of Manpower for an Employment Pass (EP) for a foreigner. Those who fail to use the jobs bank will have their EP applications rejected.
Another change is that EP holders hired from January next year must be given a higher starting pay of $3,300 a month, up from $3,000 now.
Responding to doubts that companies may just go through the motions of advertising jobs, Madam Halimah said: "Of course people can say, well after the 14 days, they can do what they want, but let's give this initiative a chance.
"For employers they must do something otherwise there will be a lot of push demand for even more drastic measures so it's in their interest to go for Singaporeans first."
She also urged employers not to wait until August next year to take action. "I hope employers don't wait until 2014. The idea of giving them till August 2014 is obviously to give them a chance to think through their recruiting processes. I hope they will do it from now."