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Businesses oppose proposal to impose quotas on foreign workers

Business leaders are against the idea of imposing quotas on foreigners to ensure a Singapore core of professionals, managers and executives in certain industries, after MP Patrick Tay suggested a dependency ratio.

SINGAPORE: Business leaders have said that they are opposed to the idea of implementing quotas on foreigners to ensure a Singapore core of professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) in certain industries.

MP Patrick Tay, who is also NTUC Assistant Secretary-General, had on Thursday (Jan 28) suggested introducing a dependency ratio for PMEs in sectors with a weak Singaporean core and a weak commitment to hire and develop Singaporeans. He also called for stricter employment pass (EP) conditions for such companies.

Said Mr Ho Meng Kit, CEO of Singapore Business Federation: "We should try as much as possible to go for market mechanism to make sure it works. On the demand side, if we can get companies to redesign jobs, then there will be demand for PMEs in those particular sector. But on the supply side, it's also important for PMEs to upskill themselves so that they can fit in the skills of those jobs."

The Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) also said such measures are unnecessary, as the problem lies with only a small percentage of firms. SNEF told Channel NewsAsia that current measures such as the Fair Consideration Framework are adequate when dealing with discriminatory employment practices.

SNEF's remarks were consistent with those by human resources firm Kelly Services, which said 95 per cent of jobs they placed involved Singaporeans, and that companies only sought foreigners when looking for staff with niche skills.

Meanwhile, the Singapore Computer Society said that the best way to help IT professionals is to provide training in high demand areas like data analytics and cyber security.

SBF said that instead of targeting and penalising an entire sector, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) can consider working with individual companies and apply tougher sanctions if needed.

"It is best for MOM to work with those companies whom you feel don’t have a Singaporean core, and you work with these companies directly, the HR people, on why you don’t have a Singapore core, and make it a bit more difficult for them to apply for the EPs, and work through on a company by company basis, rather than have a non-market rule, administrative rule for all,” said Mr Ho.

While Singapore's unemployment rate remains low, total employment growth fell to its lowest level in 12 years last year, according to preliminary estimates released by MOM.