47 employers added to watchlist for suspected discriminatory hiring practices: MOM

47 employers added to watchlist for suspected discriminatory hiring practices: MOM

Singapore CBD crowd
Workers in Singapore's CBD. (File photo: Sutrisno Foo)

SINGAPORE: Another 47 employers - most of which are from the financial and professional services sectors - have been placed on a watchlist of companies with suspected discriminatory hiring practices, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Wednesday (Aug 5).

The 47 companies collectively hire about 2,000 employment pass holders and more than 2,800 local professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).

They were added to the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) watchlist "as their workforce profiles indicate that they may have discriminatory hiring practices", said MOM in a press release. 

"These employers will have their Employment Pass applications closely scrutinised, and those who are recalcitrant or uncooperative will have their work pass privileges cut back," the ministry added.

MOM did not name the companies.

"HIGH CONCENTRATION" OF SINGLE NATIONALITIES IN FINANCIAL, PROFESSIONAL SERVICES FIRMS

Of the 47 employers, 30 are in the financial and professional services sectors. MOM said that all 30 of the financial and professional services employers have a "high concentration of PMETs from single nationalities".

In one wealth management firm, for example, almost three-quarters of their PMETs are of the same nationality, said MOM.

In another example of a bank, almost two-thirds of the PMETs are of the same nationality, it added.

"We will subject their hiring to closer scrutiny to ensure that there is no nationality bias against locals, which is unacceptable and not in line with fair, merit-based hiring," said MOM.

READ: About 1,000 firms suspected of discriminatory hiring practices, placed on Government watchlist

MIX OF LARGE AND SMALL FIRMS

The 47 companies added to the watchlist comprise both large and smaller firms - with the largest employing close to 2,000 PMETs.

Aside from the 30 employers in the financial and professional services sectors, the remaining 17 companies are in a variety of sectors, such as administrative and support services, manufacturing and education.

"While these firms were supporting local PMET employment, their workforce profiles raise concerns, when compared to industry peers," said MOM.

The ministry said that another 240 firms were identified through data analytics for possible pre-selection of foreigners or not adhering to the spirit of the job advertising requirement under the framework, and will be further investiged.

1,200 EMPLOYERS SCRUTINISED UNDER FRAMEWORK SINCE 2016

The FCF watchlist was introduced in 2016 "to proactively identify employers that are suspected of having discriminatory hiring practices", according to MOM. This is indicated by an exceptionally high share of foreign PMETs compared to industry peers, or a high concentration of PMETs from a single nationality.

More than 1,200 employers have been scrutinised under the framework since 2016. In all, 3,200 Employment Pass applications have been rejected or withheld by MOM, or withdrawn by employers.

Over the same time period, employers on the watchlist have hired more than 4,800 Singaporean PMETs, said MOM.

READ: National Jobs Council will open pathways to jobs amid COVID-19 pandemic - Josephine Teo

"EXCEPTIONALLY HIGH SHARES OF FOREIGN PMETS"

The latest additions to the FCF watchlist include banks and fund managers, management consulting firms, as well as firms that provide project management and engineering services.

"A number of these employers were placed on the FCF Watchlist because they have exceptionally high shares of foreign PMETs compared to their industry peers," said MOM.

For example, 18 of the firms added to the watchlist have foreigners comprising more than half of their PMET workforce, significantly higher compared to their industry peers, said the ministry.

"MOM does not tolerate unfair hiring practices, and employers who do not give locals a fair chance in hiring and promotion will face scrutiny and stiff penalties if found to have unfair hiring practices," it said.

REASONS BEHIND POSSIBLE UNFAIR HIRING PRACTICES

MOM said that in its observations of companies on the watchlist since 2016, 190 were from the financial and professional services sectors.

Through its engagement with those employers, TAFEP found that they were often not familiar with the skillset of local jobseekers and the Government’s support measures to help local workers reskill and upskill, said MOM.

For example, some of them claimed they were unable to find local workers with the required expertise or experience, including for more technical roles such as senior software engineers, said the ministry. The fact was, however, they had not cast their net wide enough, such as by tapping on Professional Conversion Programmes, MOM added.

Other employers assumed that local workers lacked the global exposure necessary to function effectively across the multiple countries that they operate in, said MOM.

READ: Harsher penalties for companies whose hiring practices discriminate against Singaporeans 

The manpower ministry urged the public to report specific instances of discriminatory behaviour, saying that the identity of whistleblowers will be kept confidential.

"During these challenging times, we will be extra vigilant against unfair hiring, to ensure that local jobseekers are treated fairly," it said.

Source: CNA/jt

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