Rules regarding the hiring of foreigners are being tightened so that Singaporeans have greater access to the vacancies on offer.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said yesterday that from Oct 1, firms will have to advertise jobs on the MyCareersFuture.sg portal for at least 28 days, up from 14 currently, before they can apply for a new Employment Pass (EP) or S Pass for a foreign candidate.
These changes under the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) are aimed at giving local job seekers more time to respond to job openings and for employers to seriously evaluate their applications, said the ministry in a statement.
Previously, the advertising requirement covered only EP-level jobs. It applies to employers with at least 10 employees, but does not include jobs paying a fixed monthly salary of $20,000 and above, those to be filled by intra-corporate transferees or short-term vacancies of up to one month.
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said the rule is being extended to S Pass jobs because those are the ones Singaporeans working in sectors that have been most affected by Covid-19, such as hospitality, tend to be trying to return to.
"We think it will make a meaningful difference to the profile of displaced workers who are seeking to get back into work," she said.
She added that her ministry will pay closer attention to companies where there is an over-concentration of EP or S Pass holders from a single source country.
Singaporeans have noticed this happening in certain companies, departments and industries, and it has become a source of concern for them, she noted.
There are two main reasons why it should be avoided, she said.
First, Covid-19 has shown that borders may suddenly close and if a firm has a very high concentration of staff from particular countries, it could be putting itself in a very risky position, she said, drawing parallels to the rationale for diversifying supply lines.
Second, it affects the fabric of society and the sense of comfort people feel, whether in the workplace or in the community.
"Singapore has always been multiracial, Singapore has always been multicultural, and having that rich fabric is important. So if you have in certain companies or industries a very high concentration of one (nationality), this doesn't feel the same as what we have come to be familiar with about Singapore," she said.
MOM will scrutinise more firms, including those whose Singaporean core has been weakening or whose EP and S Pass workforce are overly concentrated from a single source. They may be placed on the FCF watch list for potentially discriminatory hiring practices.
SLACK IN JOB MARKET
It is inevitable that some people will attribute (the foreign work pass policy changes) to the elections, some people will claim credit for having brought it about, but you can’t let that be the driving force for your decision.
The reason to move is the conditions have changed a lot since the last time we adjusted (in Budget 2020), and the conditions will continue to change, and there is slack in the job market already. And if you choose not to move now in order to avoid that suspicion, and then wait six months later (till Budget 2021) to do so, have we done a better thing for Singaporeans?
I think the answer is no.
MINISTER FOR MANPOWER JOSEPHINE TEO, on whether there were political considerations in making the latest updates to Singapore’s foreign work pass
So far this year, 90 employers have had their work pass privileges suspended because of FCF infringements, said the ministry.
When evaluating applications for EPs and S Passes, MOM will now also place more emphasis on whether the firm has continued to support their local PMET (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) staff and responded to government efforts to help them recruit and train more Singaporean PMETs, or whether it has discriminated against qualified Singaporeans.
This is in response to the uncertain economic times, to "help sustain public support for a business-friendly work pass policy", said the ministry.
When asked whether MOM has considered implementing a quota for EPs, Mrs Teo said that the ministry does not close off any policy options. But based on the desired employment outcomes, the aim is to help businesses to recover, and not to introduce major shocks to the current system.
"We shouldn't go overboard. We should make sure they are meaningful adjustments that support local employment but not to the extent where it will impede a company's ability to recover and grow within Singapore," she said.
"Because we really do need the companies to expand opportunities. And so they must have access to the complement of skills and talent that they can find from anywhere, put them together, base it out of Singapore and make a success of it."