Singapore Budget 2015: MOM will encourage companies to hire better-skilled foreign labour in the process sector

SINGAPORE - While the government will continue to keep a tight lid on foreign manpower growth here, it will encourage companies to hire higher quality foreign labour, said Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin on Monday.

To that end, employers in the process sector will be allowed to hire experienced work permit holders at the end of their term, or at any time with the previous employer's consent, without having to send them back to their home country first, he said.

There will also be a new salary and experience pathway for workers in the process sector to attain higher-skilled "R1" status, while the current skills test pathway will also be paired with a salary requirement.

This is so that only workers whom employers value are given R1 status, he added.

Employers pay lower levies for higher-skilled R1 workers compared to less skilled R2 workers.

These changes will kick in in 2017 to give companies time to retain and train their workers, Mr Tan said.

Responding to a question from MP Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC), Senior Minister of State for Manpower Amy Khor said on Monday in Parliament that the number of complaints MOM received on nationality-related discrimination has fallen by 25 per cent from about 310 in 2013, to about 230 in 2014.

MOM will continue to watch firms' hiring practices closely, and pre-emptively scrutinise certain employers if they have been identified to have, for example, a disproportionately low concentration of Singaporeans at the professional, managerial and executive level, she added.

"We have pursued every single one of these (complaint) cases to establish if (the employer in question) adopted discriminatory practices," said Dr Khor.

"When we find proof, MOM will not hesitate to take action."

Last December, MOM curbed the work pass privileges of maritime firm Prime Gold International after it was found to have retrenched Singaporeans only to fill the positions with foreigners, said Dr Khor.