Ensure firms don't try to beat system

The latest measure to increase the minimum salary for an Employment Pass (EP) holder to $3,600 should compel employers to rethink hiring policies, with a view to saving costs and employing more Singaporeans ("Rise in EP qualifying pay could affect bottom lines, say observers"; Monday).

Big corporations, by and large, recruit foreign talent of merit, with a larger pool of Singaporeans at top and mid-level ranks.

It is small firms that try to beat the system by hiring foreigners under the EP and S Pass system, and paying them less than the declared salary.

The worker is paid the declared amount either in cash or by direct credit to his bank account, then is made to pay back the difference between that amount and his actual salary, which he had previously agreed upon with his employer.

So, if the declared salary, for example, is $4,000 and the agreed pay is only $2,200, he has to return $1,800.

I have come across cases where EP and S Pass holders work as construction workers. In one instance, an EP holder was hired as an office administrative officer, but he was not computer literate at all.

Many of these people have been caught by the Ministry of Manpower, and they and their employers have been severely dealt with.

In the 1960s and early 70s, the processing and issue of EPs came under the ambit of the then Immigration Department.

It was the norm for an applicant to be interviewed before or soon after he was employed.

This is no longer the practice, as Singapore has become a leading business hub and the number of foreigners hired is now too large.

One way to reduce cheating would be to conduct random skills evaluation tests on foreign employees.

This will serve as psychological deterrence for employers, in particular, against cheating workers and trying to beat the system.

K. Kalidas

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2016, with the headline 'Ensure firms don't try to beat system'. Print Edition | Subscribe