Forum: Raising foreigners' salary criteria not suitable in some industries

I am writing in response to the recent call from Monetary Authority of Singapore managing director Ravi Menon to tighten Employment Pass (EP) salary criteria (Tighten salary criteria, target discriminatory hiring to ensure strong S'porean core: MAS chief, July 15), and the letter by Forum writer Luo Siao Ping, "Raise salary requirements for Employment Pass applications" (July 23).

I am flabbergasted whenever I read about the need to increase the EP salary criteria to regulate the foreign workforce.

This wage lever may have been effective when foreigners received lower salaries.

But it is not the case when this wage lever has resulted in the salaries of EP holders growing ahead of the prevailing salaries of their Singaporean peers.

The published figure of $4,500 as the minimum salary for EP holders is misleading.

In the information technology (IT) sector, companies get EPs approved by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) only at salaries much higher than this.

This is based on my experience in applying for and renewing EPs for my staff.

The purpose of a wage lever is to ensure workers are not exploited, for example, by setting a minimum wage.

It stops making sense in the current Singapore landscape where there is no longer a Singaporean core in some industries, in particular IT.

Yet, MOM continues to set higher salary thresholds that far exceed the prevailing wages of Singaporeans in similar positions.

Any increase to this salary threshold exacerbates the problem. To renew the EP of a staff member or hire new staff, the company generally has to pay up to the new EP threshold as indicated in MOM's Employment Pass self-assessment tool.

Thus, MOM is effectively dictating salary increments for EP holders and disrupting wage equity within the company.

MOM should stop this wage lever for some industries and let employers decide on salaries according to their business costs, salary structures and staff performance.

For the IT industry, not having a Singaporean core is a deep-seated issue.

Addressing the supply issue is multifaceted and the results will not be seen in my career lifetime.

Keu Heng Tat