One Pass part of broader suite of moves to ensure S'pore workforce stays competitive: Tan See Leng

One Pass holders are able to hold multiple jobs and start one or more businesses concurrently. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The new Overseas Networks and Expertise (One) Pass for top foreign talent should be seen as part of a slew of policies that ensure Singapore's workforce remains competitive, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said in Parliament on Monday.

Unveiled in August, the One Pass targets top foreign professionals drawing a fixed monthly salary of $30,000 or more from a single employer, or those with outstanding achievements in arts and culture, sports, science and technology, as well as academia and research.

One Pass holders are able to hold multiple jobs and start one or more businesses concurrently.

"(The) One Pass is one part of a broader framework that we have been rolling out for the last few months," said Dr Tan.

He was responding to a supplementary question from Mr Don Wee (Chua Chu Kang GRC) about extending the flexibility of holding multiple positions in more than one company under the One Pass to Employment Pass (EP) holders working in small and medium-sized enterprises, especially in knowledge-based industries such as consulting and audit.

Enhancements to the work pass framework include some changes for foreign professionals, such as exemptions for the top 10 per cent of EP holders from a job advertising requirement that ensures fairer employment opportunities for Singaporeans.

This will give global firms certainty that they can hire key staff for their operations here, said Dr Tan in a ministerial statement.

EP holders who qualify for the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) exemption are mainly senior professionals or management staff, he said.

Dr Tan was responding to a question from Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) on the rationale for exempting the top 10 per cent of EP holders from the FCF job advertising criteria as well as the points-based Complementarity Assessment Framework (Compass).

Under the FCF framework, employers currently need to advertise job openings to locals on jobs portal MyCareersFuture.sg for 14 days before they can hire an EP or S Pass holder, unless the foreign talent earns $20,000 per month or more.

Come Sept 1 next year, this sum will be increased to $22,500, a benchmark in line with the top 10 per cent of EP holders. The same benchmark will apply to qualify for the Personalised Employment Pass.

Meanwhile, Compass is a points-based framework that assesses the attributes of an EP applicant and his employer. Also slated to kick in next September, this framework helps employers select a diverse group of quality foreign talent that complements Singapore's talent needs.

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Explaining the exemption from the job advertising requirement, Dr Tan said: " For such roles, companies would already have a stringent selection process to hire the right candidate, given the impact these individuals would have on their business.

"It is also more likely that headhunters or search firms will play a role to fill these jobs, and it is not typical for these roles to be filled by advertising on job portals like MyCareersFuture.sg alone.

"Individuals filling these roles would also have no problems passing the Compass criteria given their calibre."

He added that providing the exemption from both Compass and the job advertising requirement is not a major concession on Singapore's part, but helps to send the right signal to global companies on the Republic's openness - bolstering their confidence to operate here.

Dr Tan also responded to questions from Mr Patrick Tay (Pioneer), Mr Louis Chua (Sengkang GRC) and Mr Ang Wei Neng (West Coast GRC) about restoring the job advertising requirement period to 14 days on Sept 1, from 28 days before.

Noting that the duration required was set at 14 days when introduced in 2014, Dr Tan said this was doubled to 28 days during the Covid-19 pandemic, as there were more job seekers than vacancies available: In June 2020, there were 0.55 vacancies for every local that was unemployed.

The job market has since rebounded, with more than two vacancies per local job seeker currently.

Dr Tan said: "Based on data from MyCareerFutures.sg, the vast majority of applications are submitted within the first two weeks of a job posting. Thereafter, responses fall off significantly.

"So, 14 days was an optimal balance between giving job seekers time to look for a job and making sure that companies could fill their vacancies in response to pressing business needs."

Dr Tan also responded to a question from Ms Rachel Ong (West Coast GRC) on extending the option to apply for a five-year EP to other sectors beyond technology, such as sustainaibility.

"For the time being, we have limited the option of a five-year EP to tech roles, for which there is an acute shortage of talent globally," he said.

Dr Tan added, though, that other sectors could still benefit as almost all sectors require tech talent to drive transformation, including the financial services and manufacturing industries, as well as up-and-coming sustainability sectors.

"We are watching the sustainability space closely as it develops, and will refine our policies when needed," he said.

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