SINGAPORE - Companies will need to pay foreign professionals and mid-skilled workers higher salaries in order for them to qualify to work in Singapore.
The impending hike in the salary criteria for Employment Passes (EPs) and S Passes is part of adjustments to foreign workforce policies to reflect the slacker labour market conditions owing to Covid-19, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo on Wednesday (Aug 26).
She did not give details but these are expected to be made public soon.
Currently, the fixed monthly salary threshold for EP holders is at least $3,900, and for S Pass holders, at least $2,400. The qualifying salaries are higher for older and more experienced workers.
The increase would be the second announced this year for EPs and comes in the wake of rising retrenchments and recent concerns about competition between Singaporeans and foreigners in the job market.
Mrs Teo announced the upcoming change in her ministry's addendum to the President's earlier speech, setting out its priorities for the new term of government.
She said: "Even as we stay open to the world to accelerate our recovery, the crisis makes it all the more important that employers give fair treatment to Singaporeans.
"They should also seek to achieve greater diversity within their EP and S Pass workforce where practical."
She added: "We will ensure that employers uphold both the letter and spirit of the Fair Consideration Framework. We will closely examine retrenchment exercises to ensure they are carried out fairly."
She also said that Singapore's foreign workforce policies are regularly calibrated for companies to have the workers they need while ensuring a strong Singaporean core.
Today, nearly six in 10 locals - that is, Singaporeans plus permanent residents - in the workforce are employed in professional, managerial, executive and technician (PMET) jobs, among the highest rates in the world, she said.
And for every EP holder, there are nearly seven locals employed in PMET roles.
In May this year, the EP salary threshold was raised to $3,900 for new applicants, from $3,600, and renewals will follow suit in May next year. Before that, it was last raised in 2017.
For S Pass holders, the minimum salary was increased to $2,400 in January this year, from $2,300 last year and $2,200 in 2018. Before that, it was last raised in 2013.
In the addendum, Mrs Teo said businesses that bring in skills in short supply or new networks of opportunity for Singapore will always be welcome.
At the same time, the Government will require companies to do more to develop and strengthen their Singaporean core.
Other major moves on the ministry's agenda include making jobs, traineeships and training opportunities available to Singaporeans, through the whole-of-government effort led by the National Jobs Council, and championing family-friendly workplaces.
There is support especially for older workers, said Mrs Teo.
And there will be more help for Singaporeans searching for jobs through the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Centres in all Housing Board towns, better digital career matching services and partnerships with private sector employment agencies, she added.
SOLID SINGAPOREAN CORE
Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam also highlighted on Wednesday the importance of a Singaporean core, in the addendum of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
He said the central bank is working with major financial institutions (FIs) to ensure they employ a solid Singaporean core, including developing Singaporeans for senior roles, complemented by diverse and high-quality talent.
It is also working with employer, union and government partners to boost employment, traineeships and training in the financial sector.
For instance, under a $125 million support package launched by MAS in April this year, there will be structured talent development programmes for more than 900 Singaporeans among those newly hired by FIs in the next three years, said Mr Tharman, who is MAS chairman and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies.
He noted that the financial sector is on track to meet its targets for both growth and job creation in its industry transformation map for 2016 to this year.
The roadmap's target is for the financial services industry to create 3,000 net jobs and a further 1,000 in financial technology annually, and grow by 4.3 per cent per year on a real value-added basis.
MAS is also working with the Institute of Banking and Finance and Workforce Singapore to train and redeploy local mid-career workers into FIs, said Mr Tharman.
"The financial sector remains integral to Singapore's recovery from the Covid-19 crisis and longer-term growth," he said.
He added: "MAS will work with the industry to ensure that the financial sector is well-equipped with the skills and capabilities to emerge stronger from the crisis, and advance Singapore as a global financial centre."