About 2,600 Employment Passes (EPs) were not renewed in the first half of this year, said Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin in Parliament on Tuesday.
Responding to Nominated MP R Dhinakaran, Mr Tan said slightly more than half of the EPs that were not renewed were from the lowest tier, or Q1 pass holders.
The top industries that the EP holders belonged to were wholesale and retail trade, professional services as well as information and communications.
Mr Tan said the trend was likely due to the tightening of EP qualifying criteria, as part of the Government's move to raise the quality of foreign professionals working here.
In January last year, the qualifying salary for EP holders was raised from $2,800 to $3,000. This will go up to $3,300 from January next year for young graduates from good educational institutions, under the new Fair Consideration Framework. Firms must also advertise on a government jobs bank for 14 days before applying for an EP.
Mr Tan said his ministry is "very mindful" of employers' concerns but added: "The overall message is consistent. We do need to tighten and we do need to move on to a much more productivity-led growth as well as a more manpower-lean approach".