Logistics, hospitality sectors likely to benefit from new M-SEP scheme allowing more foreign hires

The additional quota is meant for firms that pursue ambitious investment, innovation or internationalisation. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Under a new scheme that kicked in on Tuesday, firms that advance Singapore’s key economic priorities will be allowed to temporarily hire a few more foreign workers beyond prevailing S Pass and work permit quotas for their industry.

Firms approved to join the Manpower for Strategic Economic Priorities (M-SEP) scheme will see their quota for workers on either pass expanded by up to 5 per cent of their existing base workforce, capped at 50 additional workers, for two years at a time.

The additional quota, which is renewable, is meant for firms that pursue ambitious investment, innovation or internationalisation, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Manpower in a statement on Tuesday.

Sectors likely to benefit from the scheme include the maritime, and logistics and supply chain sectors, said Mr Ang Yuit, vice-president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises.

This is because the bottleneck for innovative firms in those sectors is more likely to be in finding enough rank-and-file or semi-skilled workers for rapidly growing operations rather than skilled Employment Pass workers, unlike most other sectors, he said.

“For instance, innovative logistics and supply chain firms may still need workers performing data entry or warehouse tasks, which are not as attractive to Singaporeans.”

He said M-SEP is more likely to benefit larger firms, for which an additional quota of 5 per cent amounts to a more significant number of workers than for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Firms that will benefit more from the new scheme include segments of the technology, hospitality, supply chain and logistics sectors, said Ms Betul Genc, Singapore country manager of human resources firm Adecco.

Most firms that wish to tap M-SEP must commit to hire, or send for training, within two years the same number of locals as the additional quota they seek, with limited exceptions.

Singaporeans sent for additional training as a result of M-SEP could develop in-demand cloud, data, cyber-security, fintech, digital banking and software skills, Ms Genc noted.

Mr Aslam Sardar, chief executive of the Institute for Human Resource Professionals, said M-SEP is meant to help companies that can significantly advance Singapore’s economic priorities address short-term skill gaps and seize growth opportunities.

“Concurrently, it addresses the longer-term goals of creating good job opportunities for locals in growth companies, and through training programmes that uplift skills, make the local workforce competitive,” he said.

Asked what aspects of the scheme human resource practitioners might need more clarity on, Mr Sardar said some companies may be involved in multiple initiatives that individually already meet M-SEP’s first qualifying condition.

The condition stipulates that firms must either already be part of at least one economic scheme, or be deemed to meet certain economic criteria, by any of five agencies.

“HR practitioners would want to know how their application would be treated in such an instance.”

Firms may also end up hiring or training fewer workers than anticipated due to a tight labour market and the resignation of workers scheduled for training, falling short of commitments they made for the additional quota, he said.

But, he said, firms can mitigate this risk by being more innovative in their workforce planning and upskilling, such as by training talent in adjacent functions for the required role. “This not only contributes to retention, but also offers career mobility for existing staff, raising the incentive for locals to stay with the firm longer.”

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