SINGAPORE: In a bid to give Singaporeans fair access to more high-quality jobs, the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) will be expanded to cover more employers and jobs, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said in Parliament on Monday (Feb 5).
“We will expand the requirement to advertise jobs on the national Jobs Bank before EP (employment pass) application to cover more employers,” he said in his Committee of Supply debate speech.
From Jul 1, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will broaden the FCF advertising requirement to firms with 10 or more employees and job positions that pay a fixed monthly salary of less than S$15,000.
“These changes will ensure that the FCF job advertising requirement keeps pace with income changes, and that the local workforce continues to be fairly considered for job opportunities,” MOM said in a release.
Currently, firms with 10 to 25 employees and jobs that pay from S$12,000 to below S$15,000 a month are exempted from the FCF advertising requirement.
The FCF requires employers to advertise job vacancies for 14 days on the Jobs Bank, which is administered by Workforce Singapore (WSG), before submitting EP applications.
EPs are meant for foreign professionals, managers and executives (PMETs), and requires candidates to earn at least S$3,600 a month and hold acceptable academic qualifications.
Meanwhile, Mr Lim said 500 companies from various sectors, including employment agencies and placement companies, have been placed on an FCF watchlist for having “pre-conceived ideas that local PMETs are either unable or unwilling to do the job”. “So, they write them off without even considering them fairly,” he said.
The EP applications of these companies are subjected to additional scrutiny. “This is to eradicate ‘nationality bias’ as described by (Labour MP) Mr Patrick Tay,” he added.
To that end, MOM has withheld or rejected 1,900 EP applications since February 2016. This figure includes applications that companies withdrew.
The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices has worked with them to improve HR practices, Mr Lim added, while WSG, Institutes of Higher Learning and the Employment and Employability Institute helped them recruit fresh graduates and mid-career local PMETs.
As a result, more than 2,200 Singaporean PMETs were hired, Mr Lim stated.
The minister highlighted the example of a private wealth management firm with 80 PMET employees that was placed on the FCF watchlist in February 2016. The company hired mostly foreign PMETs to serve mostly expatriate clients, he said.
Since then, Mr Lim said the company has repositioned to serve local and expatriate clients and hired 30 Singaporean wealth managers and PMETs, training them here and abroad.
“After being removed from the watchlist, the company continues to hire and develop more local wealth managers and PMETs to grow their business,” he added.
While 150 companies have improved their HR practices and exited the watch list, Mr Lim said, 60 of the remaining 350 companies have been uncooperative and showed no sign of improvement.
“We have curtailed their work pass privileges: No new EP applications, no renewal of existing EPs until they adopt fair HR practices,” he added.
UPDATES TO S PASS ELIGIBILITY
To ensure S Pass holders complement the local workforce and keep pace with rising local wages, Mr Lim said the the minimum qualifying salary for S Pass will be increased from the current S$2,200 to S$2,400. S Passes are usually for mid-level skilled staff.
The increase will be made in two steps: By S$100 from the start of next year, and another S$100 from the start of 2020.
MOM will put in place transitional measures to help those affected cope with the changes.
Under the first step increase from S$2,200 to S$2,300, existing S Pass holders whose passes expire before Jan 1, 2019 will be allowed to renew based on the existing criteria. Holders of passes that expire between Jan 1, 2019 and Jun 30, 2019 - with both dates inclusive - will be allowed to do the same for a duration of up to one year.
The same measures apply to the second step increase from S$2,300 to S$2,400.
In addition, some work permit holders will be allowed to stay longer for four more years from May this year. This will apply to work permit holders of R1 and R2 skill levels from non-traditional sources such as Malaysia and India as well as China in all sectors.
Employers will also be given more pathways to improve the quality of their foreign workers. Currently, work permit holders in the manufacturing and marine shipyard sectors can be recognised as higher skilled (R1) through qualifications and skills tests.
From September, they can upgrade from R2 to R1 if they meet the minimum period of employment and salary requirements through the Market-Based Skills Recognition Framework.
“We believe this will be helpful to companies that want to hire and retain their better work permit holders,” Mr Lim said.
Despite the measures, Mr Lim reiterated that his ministry aims to “strike a fine and dynamic balance” between the local and foreign workforce.
“In short, we were able to draw on foreign professionals to help meet the manpower needs of the industry, while at the same time strengthen our local core,” he said.
“Our Singapore workforce of two-thirds local and one-third foreign will be able to support a faster pace of industry transformation for us to compete better globally and for better investments and jobs.”