Forum: Extending quota system to employment passes would constrain firms

Office workers walking across Raffles Quay. PHOTO: ST FILE

We thank Mr Colin Loh Yoon Fui for his views (Consider quota system in tandem with Fair Consideration Framework, Jan 17).

Singapore is home to many regional headquarters and top tech firms. One key factor is the highly skilled Singaporean workforce, which possesses a strong work ethic and familiarity with the growing Asian region. Singaporeans receive a rigorous education, and, through SkillsFuture, they can continue to develop new skills through life to stay relevant.

Naturally, the ability to attract skilled workers from any part of the world is crucial, but the most successful enterprises are the ones which have built up a Singaporean core to leverage Singapore's human capital.

The Ministry of Manpower's most recent labour market survey shows robust local employment growth last year (26,500), notwithstanding economic headwinds and uncertainties.

As there is already a quota system for other types of work passes, extending the quota system to employment passes would constrain companies in hiring the most suitable person for the job, and affect their business strategies, global talent hunt and competitiveness.

Using eligibility criteria and the Fair Consideration Framework for the hiring of skilled foreigners balances the need to keep the labour market open while ensuring Singaporeans are fairly considered for jobs. This approach has worked well as the number and share of professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) among employed Singaporeans have increased from 742,800 (47 per cent) in June 2009 to 1,050,300 (56 per cent) in June last year.

Since 2016, the number of employers on the Fair Consideration Framework watch list has been small, at about 600, including 260 which have been taken off the watch list.

New penalties for non-compliant employers include debarment for all work passes and imprisonment, fines or both. These penalties cannot be considered light.

Affected companies may not be able to hire Singaporeans and face a business slowdown.

Should the company cease operations, Singaporeans will also lose their jobs.

Last year, the Economic Development Board attracted $15.2 billion worth of investments, which would create over 32,000 jobs for both PMETs and non-PMETs. Also, there are still many job opportunities across different industries.

To sustain and enhance the employment of Singaporeans, we must keep the economy competitive, create better jobs and equip Singaporeans with the right skills to take on job opportunities.

Koh Juan Kiat

Executive Director

Singapore National Employers Federation

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2020, with the headline Forum: Extending quota system to employment passes would constrain firms. Subscribe