Work permits for non-citizens introduced

Bill makes it compulsory from 1966 to have permits, to 'curb influx of unemployed people'

Singapore introduced rules at the end of December 1965 to make it compulsory for non-citizens to obtain work permits to work in the country .

The move would prevent Singapore from becoming a dumping ground for the unemployed in Malaysia, Labour Minister Jek Yeun Thong said of the rule in the Regulation of Employment Bill.

Under the Bill, all non-citizens, whether they were already in employment or seeking employment at a basic salary of not more than $750 a month, will be required to obtain the permits.

Mr Jek said: "Non-citizens already in employment for some considerable time will not be displaced.

From February to end-May in 1966, a total of 72,380 applications for work permits were received. Most of these were from those who already had jobs in Singapore, with 3,182 by non-citizens seeking employment.

"They will be issued with work permits, so that they may continue in employment even though they do not possess the required skills."

Those employed before June 1, 1961, would be issued work permits, he said, while those who were hired here between June 1, 1961, and Sept 16, 1963, would be given sympathetic consideration if they were married and their wives were permanent residents (PRs) of Singapore.

Those who were employed here after Sept 16, 1963, but before Aug 9, 1965, would be given the same consideration if, on top of the above two conditions, they had children who were PRs of Singapore.

But Mr Jek added that "it must be remembered, however, that each application would be considered on its own merits".

While work permits may be issued to non-citizens already in employment, it could not be guaranteed that they would get work permits again if they became unemployed subsequently, he added.

"I must stress that work permits will not be issued to recent arrivals with no family roots in Singapore, including those who have been in employment since Aug 9, 1965, unless they possess special skills," he said.

He added: "The main objective, of course, is not to drive people back, but to stop future influx."

The new rule took effect in February 1966.

From February to end-May in 1966, a total of 72,380 applications for work permits were received. Most of these were from those who already had jobs in Singapore, with 3,182 by non-citizens seeking employment.

Most applicants were unskilled workers such as labourers, shop assistants, hairdressers, barbers, gardeners and drivers.

About 3,600 non-citizens who were unskilled and had taken up residence and employment in Singapore after Aug 9 were rejected.

Under the rule, anyone who failed to apply for a work permit as required was liable to a fine of up to $1,000, or a jail term of up to six months, or both.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 27, 2015, with the headline 'Work permits for non-citizens introduced'. Print Edition | Subscribe