The Straits Times
Published on Nov 10, 2012

Stricter hiring rules: Employers caught off guard, and struggling


THE Ministry of Manpower should have given employers a more reasonable notice period regarding its new policy that results in stricter terms for the hiring of foreign labour ("Have we gone too far?"; last Saturday).

There were four problems that caught employers like me off guard.

First, the new policy said that pay for experienced foreigners on employment passes must be above $3,000 monthly, but the exact minimum pay was not announced.

When I renewed my applications for my staff, I was surprised to learn that the new pay must be at least $4,500 monthly, which is 80 per cent more than the $2,500 from two years ago.

I did not have enough time to build a sufficient quota to downgrade my foreign staff to S Passes, or to recruit replacement local workers.

Singapore is now at full employment, so local job applicants are rare.

Second, employers value and treasure staff they have trained and who have worked hard to contribute to their businesses.

The ministry's drastic policy change has forced employers like me to grapple with the issue of losing valued staff, or retaining them at significantly higher pay, thereby eroding profits.

Third, the new policy has turned the hiring process into a local employees' market.

These workers resign without notice during employment, do not report for work after signing an employment contract, or do not turn up for job interviews that were scheduled.

Local employees also quit if the job is demanding, as they can find employment easily elsewhere.

Employers are now at their mercy.

Finally, there is a limit to automation, which varies depending on the job requirements.

As auditors, the authorities require us to verify our clients' hard copy source documents, which requires manpower.

I urge the Manpower Ministry to review the practical issues arising from the new policy on foreign labour, which will affect new job creation in the face of a looming world economic downturn from which Singapore is unlikely to be unaffected.

Tan Saw Bin (Ms)