We thank Mr Andrew Seow Chwee Guan for his views (Tweaking manpower policy could boost social cohesion, June 22).
Mr Seow suggested granting fewer employment passes (EPs) and S Passes in order to increase Singaporeans' employability.
Far fewer EP and S Pass applications have been approved this year, stemming from Covid-19 travel restrictions.
In the first quarter, foreigners constituted the bulk of the contraction in total employment. In fact, from January to last month, the number of foreigners in our workforce (excluding foreign domestic workers) shrank by nearly 60,000.
We share Singaporeans' desire to safeguard our people's jobs and career progression, and our EP and S Pass policies are regularly updated to achieve this.
In recent years, we have raised qualifying salaries for work pass applicants to ensure a level playing field for locals, reduced quotas to regulate the number of work pass holders, and strengthened the Fair Consideration Framework to uphold fair hiring.
As a result, the number of EP holders has remained stable.
In the last three years, the number of S Pass holders has grown by about 2 per cent a year on average, in support of the quick expansion of the service sector.
In comparison, from 2016 to last year, the number of local professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) grew by 110,000 to 1.3 million, or about 3 per cent, annually - higher than EP and S Pass growth.
The share of employed locals in PMET jobs has also increased steadily from 55 per cent to 58 per cent. These developments show that foreign and local manpower can be complementary.
When businesses have access to a broader range of skills, Singapore is better able to attract strategic investments that expand job opportunities for our people.
Our priority has always been to upskill Singaporeans and help them access good jobs, and we have been redoubling our efforts through the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package.
More than 100,000 jobs, traineeships, and skills training opportunities will be made available this year.
We also provide hiring incentives for employers to hire locals, with more support for those aged 40 and above.
In anticipation of growing needs, we have quickly ramped up career services to help match more job seekers to suitable opportunities.
As long as they are willing, job seekers will get the help needed to move into new roles.
Divisional Director, Manpower Planning and Policy Division
Ministry of Manpower