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Singapore remains open to global talent; aim is to benefit, not substitute Singaporeans: Chan Chun Sing

Singapore remains open to global talent; aim is to benefit, not substitute Singaporeans: Chan Chun Sing

A view of high-rise financial district office buildings from the Marina Bay promenade in Singapore. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s foreign worker policies are shifting towards “quality rather than quantity” but the country still welcomes foreign talent, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (Sep 8).  

Mr Chan, who was speaking at a virtual forum organised by Standard Chartered, noted that there has been much talk on the issue of foreigners in Singapore, but said that this scrutiny is not unique to Singapore. 

“Every country facing economic slowdown in (a) recession will have elements questioning the balance between locals and foreigners in the job market,” Mr Chan said.

Singapore will continue to bring in foreign talent “in a calibrated manner” to create opportunities for Singaporeans, he added.

“Let me be clear. We want the world’s best and brightest to be with Team Singapore – to augment our skills and capabilities, competing on our side rather than against us, and ultimately, to benefit Singaporeans, not to substitute or to hurt them.”

READ: Business owners in F&B, retail and construction raise concerns about rise in S Pass qualifying salary


Singapore announced last month that it is raising the qualifying salary for Employment Passes and S Passes for the second time this year.

The minimum qualifying salary for new Employment Passes, which are for foreign professionals, managers and executives, has been raised by S$600 to S$4,500. The salary criteria is higher for applicants in the financial services sector.

For S Passes, which are for mid-skilled employees, the salary threshold will be raised by S$100 to S$2,500 from October.

S Pass jobs will also be subject to the Fair Consideration Framework advertising requirement from October, requiring employers to post a job advertisement for at least 28 days.

READ: Minimum qualifying salary to rise by S$600 for Employment Passes and S$100 for S Passes, higher requirement for financial services

On Tuesday, Mr Chan said that Singapore’ foreign worker policies are moving towards quality instead of quantity, but it is not a sign that the country is turning away foreign talent. Rather, it shows that Singapore is serious about discriminatory hiring practices, he said.

“All businesses, regardless of size and nationality, will have to play our part in building up the Singaporean workforce, and giving Singaporeans a fair shot at the same job opportunities," he said. 

Screenshot of Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing speaking about Singapore' position as a global business hub at a virtual Standard Charted forum on Sep 8, 2020.

“And we will also like to encourage all our companies to have a diverse workforce, and not overly rely on any particular source of labour from any particular foreign country,” he added. “This is just part of good business continuity practices, and it will also help us in our social integration.” 

“And that is how we will continue to keep Singapore relevant, as the preferred hub for Singapore companies and international companies.” 


Delivering the keynote address for the forum, titled Singapore – the global hub and gateway to ASEAN, Mr Chan talked about how COVID-19 has changed the way companies do business, and whether there is still a need for regional and global “hubs”.

“In a more fragmented global economy, there will like not just be a single hub, but a series of key nodes in a larger network with other nodes that must be able to connect seamlessly with one other,” said Mr Chan.

“For Singapore, we aim to be one of these critical nodes in the global system, even if the world is heading to bifurcation or fragmentation."

The country must not see itself as just a “gateway” – serving as a location to trade through - but as a “critical node” for businesses as Singapore adds value to their supply chain, Mr Chan said.

Investors choose Singapore because of qualities such as a stable government, clear rule of law and transport connectivity, he said, adding that authorities will work closely with companies to develop their businesses in a “long-term and sustainable manner”.

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

READ: Singapore economy expected to contract 6% this year as private-sector economists downgrade forecasts: MAS survey

More than 750 foreign companies have set up their regional headquarters in Singapore, Mr Chan pointed out, including Japanese construction firm Kajima Corporation which broke ground last month for its first overseas research centre in Changi Business Park.

“We will continue to make Singapore the preferred hub for companies to connect and do business with Asia and the rest of the world,” Mr Chan said, adding that one way to do this is to remain open to foreign talent.

Singapore will also continue to invest in transportation infrastructure and trade networks, train its workers and pursue “new frontiers of growth” like biomedical sciences and agri-food technology.

“Our hub status was established through sheer hard work and determination of our people, by providing a conducive platform for businesses to fulfil their regional and global ambitions,” Mr Chan said.

“We do not take this for granted. We know the competition is stiff. If we do not adapt to the changing nature of how businesses operate, we will be easily bypassed.”

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Source: CNA/rp(gs)


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