SINGAPORE: Manufacturing and services sectors will soon be able to hire work permit holders who are already in Singapore, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Tuesday (Feb 25).
The temporary scheme, which will start Mar 2 and run for six months, was rolled out in an effort to help companies in these sectors better manage their manpower needs amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
During a visit to transport manufacturing company Wong Fong Engineering Works, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that during this period, "some companies (could be) dealing with excess manpower because their business volumes are not the same as they were before".
"At the same time you also have employers who are dealing with manpower shortage because some of their workers are unable to return," she said.
When asked how many of the 30,000 work pass holders from mainland China are still overseas, Mrs Teo said that “(the) majority have not come back”.
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Currently, manufacturing and services companies are only allowed to hire work permit holders from mainland China who have exited Singapore.
MOM said that the temporary scheme, which already applies to the construction, process and marine shipyard sectors, will “give companies more flexibility to manage their manpower needs”.
“Companies facing a shortage of manpower can save on search and recruitment expenses.
“At the same time, companies that have excess manpower can provide their workers with an opportunity to continue working in Singapore and save on repatriation costs.”
Currently, manufacturing and services companies are allowed to hire existing Malaysian work permit holders who are in Singapore.
The work permit holders can only move to another company within the same sector and companies that want to hire them must first get their employer's consent.
Wong Fong Engineering Works chief financial officer Jack Wong said that while the scheme may help in the “overall management of the business”, it will take time to train the new workers.
The company, which has 40 work permit holders from mainland China and 290 employees in total, has 13 workers who have yet to return to Singapore. The first batch of four is expected to arrive on Feb 26.
MOM is working with the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) on the scheme. Employers who wish to hire or transfer a work permit holder from mainland China can contact SBF at firstname.lastname@example.org.