Singapore's approach of treating fair employers differently from those with unfair hiring practices has boosted the number of local professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) over the past three years, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said last night.
From 2014 to last year, the employment of local PMETs grew by 105,000, more than six times the growth in employment of Employment Pass (EP) holders of 17,000.
Including S Pass holders, the number of foreign PMETs working here grew by 36,000 over that period.
This is a reversal from the trend in 2011 to 2013, when the total growth of EP and S Pass holders was higher than that of local PMETs, he said.
Mr Lim was speaking at an award dinner by the Institute of Banking and Finance Singapore, where he held up the finance sector as a major contributor to economic growth and job creation - with a healthy local share of PMET jobs. More than eight in 10 of its PMET positions are filled by local staff - Singaporeans and permanent residents - he said.
Among the Singapore arms of global banks, local staff can make up as many as 90 per cent of PMET workers. And for their regional and global arms situated here, local staff make up about 65 per cent of the PMETs employed, he said, addressing some 450 banking and finance professionals.
Mr Lim said the Manpower Ministry strives to strike a balance between being pro-business and pro-worker in the face of Singapore's demographic trends and slowing local workforce growth.
STRIKING A BALANCE
Economic growth without local employment growth will lead to social tension and increased social divide. Likewise, local employment growth without economic growth will lead to economic stagnation and decline.
MANPOWER MINISTER LIM SWEE SAY
"Economic growth without local employment growth will lead to social tension and increased social divide. Likewise, local employment growth without economic growth will lead to economic stagnation and decline," he said.
This is why the ministry has placed about 300 companies which unfairly favour foreigners in their hiring practices on its watchlist under the Fair Consideration Framework. This subjects their EP applications to closer scrutiny, while the applications of companies which are fair are processed normally, he said.
Looking ahead, Mr Lim identified three areas for improvement.
One, beyond creating more jobs, the quality of job growth must be enhanced through technology.
Two, workers must be trained so they can maximise their potential.
Mr Lim urged employers to be inclusive, saying they should create opportunities for people to pick up new skills and pursue new careers, especially young people and mid-career job seekers affected by restructuring. He also urged them to look out for older or vulnerable workers, and make work arrangements flexible and family-friendly for mothers and caregivers.
Three, the Singaporean core must grow not just in number but in capabilities. He encouraged companies to nurture more "glocal" talents - local workers with global experience. They can be groomed for top management roles and be equipped with world-class skills, such as in data analytics and running smart factories.
Local workers can do their part in learning continuously too, he said. "Leave your comfort zone and take on new challenges. Broaden your horizons and exposure. Take up regional postings, get to know Asia better and build up your networks."