SINGAPORE - Firms should have to give priority to Singaporeans for jobs if they have suitable qualifications and experience, Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) said in the debate on the President's Address on Monday.
"It is time that we move our manpower policies for PMEs (professionals, managers and executives) from a defensive, anti-discrimination position to one where we actively promote and champion the hiring and development of Singaporeans," she said.
She noted that the Manpower Ministry's Fair Consideration Framework, which will take effect from August 1, will require firms to advertise on a jobs bank for 14 days before applying to hire foreign PMEs on Employment Passes. However, the firm's eventual hiring decision is left up to them.
"The Manpower Minister further emphasized that FCF is not about 'Hire Singaporeans First' - but many are asking, "Why not?'" said Ms Foo.
She called for employers to instead have to prove that if a foreigner is hired, that is only because there are no suitable locals for the job. This would mean scrutinising firms' hiring decisions to see if qualified Singaporeans were given priority.
This is already being done in places such as Hong Kong and Britain, she added. "The infrastructure developed under FCF such as a national jobs bank, should pave the way for us to progress to the next stage of Singaporeans first for jobs they can do."
Ms Foo also proposed that firms which are allowed to hire foreigners should be obliged to have a formal system for training and developing Singaporeans.
As part of the Employment Pass approval process, employers should have to ensure that skills are being transferred to locals. For instance, there could be training and mentorship of Singaporeans, and Singaporeans should be groomed to take over key positions. This could start with companies or sectors with high concentrations of foreign PMEs, said Ms Foo.
"I believe that the current negative sentiment against foreign talent will ease when Singaporeans no longer feel that their livelihoods are threatened. And when they feel they have much to gain from a systematic transfer of skills and knowledge from foreign colleagues who bring expertise, I believe Singaporeans' attitudes toward them will be more welcoming."