Naming firms placed on watch list for possible discriminatory hiring practices is counter-productive: Josephine Teo

Naming firms placed on watch list for possible discriminatory hiring practices is counter-productive: Josephine Teo

Josephine teo sep 4 parl
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo in Parliament on Sep 4.

SINGAPORE: Naming the companies that are on the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) watch list is “counter-productive” as it frustrates the suspected firms’ local hiring efforts, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said in Parliament on Friday (Sep 4).

Mrs Teo was speaking on the fifth day of Parliament in response to calls by several Members of Parliament (MPs) to name the firms that are on the list - firms that are suspected of observing biased hiring practices.

There are currently 400 companies on the list for having a higher share of foreign professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) compared to their industry peers or higher concentrations of a single foreign nationality source, Mrs Teo said.

But these companies - there have been 1,200 firms scrutinised through the FCF since 2016 - have not flouted any rules, she said, and investigations found some employers to be genuinely unfamiliar with local recruitment channels or whose recruitment had been limited by directives imposed by overseas headquarters.

Employment pass applications are held back while the authorities engage these firms to help them improve their human resource practices, she added, and many firms exit the watch list within a year. 

“Measures we take for these firms must therefore be proportional and also consider the impact on their existing local workforce,” she said.

READ: Manpower Ministry to review companies whose 'Singaporean core has been weakening': Josephine Teo

“In most instances, employers on the FCF watch list have been responsive to TAFEP’s (Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices) engagement efforts and expanded their employment of local PMETs with help from Workforce Singapore,” said Mrs Teo.

“Naming these firms would likely have frustrated their local hiring efforts and is ultimately counter-productive," she added. 

For “the minority” that do not make the required adjustments, their work pass privileges remain suspended. 

This year, 90 employers have had their work pass privileges suspended because of infringements under the FCF, Mrs Teo said. 

Those that actually have discriminatory hiring practices such as pre-selecting foreign candidates have had their names revealed, she said, referring to how MOM released several names in January this year. 

WHAT HAPPENS TO FIRMS THAT DON’T CHANGE? 

In an exchange after Mrs Teo’s response, MP He Ting Ru asked if there are any government-linked companies on the watch list and how many companies on the watch list are “persistent offenders”.

Mrs Teo said there are no Temasek-linked companies on it and that less than 10 per cent of firms have yet to exit the list.

“And the reason why I don’t give you a very specific number is because even if the company has exited from the watch list, it doesn’t mean we stop watching them,” she said. 

“If they revert to the old patterns of hiring and we are concerned about their workforce profile again, then they can get put back into the watch list.” 

READ: MPs call for firms to be more transparent on foreign hiring, make push to prioritise Singaporeans

MP Patrick Tay asked if the authorities could name recalcitrant employers that have not fixed their practices after more than one year and give the breakdown of firms in the list based on their size. 

Naming these companies would have to depend on what the objective is, Mrs Teo replied. 

“If our objective is still to try and get them to improve their HR practices, what is a more effective way of doing so - naming them or continuing to suspend their work pass privileges?” she said. 

In some instances, some of these organisations decided to exit Singapore after they were not able to meet the recruitment requirements, she added.  

READ: Union leader urges tougher measures to tackle hiring bias, including EP quotas and ending tax breaks

“And you don't even need to name them. They find that this set of conditions is not what they would like to deal with,” she said. 

“We accept that and whether you name them or not wouldn’t have made much of a difference. But the fact that you have curtailed their work pass privileges that's what has really made the difference,” she added. 

Source: CNA/rp(hs)

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