Better to impose levy on dependants of work pass holders

Since Jan 1, Employment Pass and S Pass holders have needed to meet the higher $6,000 salary criterion to be eligible to apply for Dependant's Passes for their spouses and children.

As a result, I have been receiving more requests from foreign employees to increase their salaries so that they can bring their family members here.

In fact, such requests surge every time the Ministry of Manpower announces a higher salary criterion.

Businesses may have no choice but to agree to such requests, especially if the employees have skills that many others do not have.

And, unless we adjust the salaries of local employees by the same quantum, foreign employees will enjoy a higher pay range.

I understand the need to control the inflow of dependants, who are usually not economically productive and, instead, strain our infrastructure.

However, tweaking the salary criterion of work pass holders is not an efficient way to achieve this.

A more equitable way is to lower the salary criterion and charge a levy on all dependants above a certain age.

With this, the Government can collect revenue up front on a fair and direct basis.

It also has more ways by which to assess the family profiles of foreign employees.

There would be less need to raise the salaries of foreign employees, even in an employees' market.

If employers choose to provide a subsidy for this "dependants' levy", they would be obliged to provide a similar benefit to local employees as well.

Lastly, a levy would give talented foreign employees who are on a lower pay scale the option of bringing their families here.

Ho Chee Khuen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2018, with the headline 'Better to impose levy on dependants of work pass holders'. Print Edition | Subscribe