Forum: Raise salary requirements for Employment Pass applications

I agree with Monetary Authority of Singapore managing director Ravi Menon's recent call to tighten the salary criteria of foreign workers' work pass applications (Tighten salary criteria, target discriminatory hiring to ensure strong S'porean core: MAS chief, July 15).

Importing foreign workers to supplement the local labour market where it faces shortages is not new and is practised by many countries.

However, it can become a hot-button issue for governments if the legal bar is seen as being set too low, resulting in foreign workers competing (sometimes unfairly due to lower wages) with citizens in areas which are not short of local workers.

As a cosmopolitan city and business hub, Singapore cannot afford to shut its borders entirely to foreign workers, both at the high and lower end of its labour pyramid.

However, as Mr Menon suggested, the Government could tighten the salary criteria to ensure we bring in only skills that we truly need and are lacking locally.

The Government reviews the criteria for work permit, S Pass and Employment Pass applications when necessary.

As Singapore moves up the economic ladder, the Employment Pass salary criteria can perhaps be looked at more closely.

As a start, I suggest the Government apply a 40 per cent premium to the median salary for Singaporean PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) as the salary criteria for all Employment Pass applications.

This could be introduced over a two-year period, starting at 20 per cent during the first year of implementation, then 30 per cent for the second year, before rolling out the full 40 per cent from the third year onwards.

The median salary should also be reviewed every two or three years to ensure its relevance.

Companies should also be required to provide more details in Employment Pass applications of why they are unable to fill the job vacancy with Singaporeans.

The current requirement of openly advertising a job vacancy for 28 days before being allowed to apply for an Employment Pass should be raised to 60 days so the company can demonstrate that it was truly unable to fill the job vacancy with a Singaporean.

Luo Siao Ping

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