Singapore gov’t outlines plans to boost ‘fair hiring’ policy

The city-state of Singapore has become the latest jurisdiction to unveil plans aimed at requiring companies to prioritise the hiring of local workers over expatriates, after a government minister on Monday announced changes to an existing pro-local hiring regime known as the Fair Consideration Framework.

In a speech to Singapore’s Parliament, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said the government was planning to “expand the requirement to advertise jobs on the national Jobs Bank before EP (employment pass) application, to cover more employers”, according to Channel NewsAsia and other media organisations that covered the announcement.

The new Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) requirements will take effect on 1 July, and will see companies with 10 or more employees and job positions that pay a fixed monthly salary of less than S$15,000 (US$11,400, £8,195, €9,190) now being covered by the rules.

Currently, those businesses with just 10 to 25 employees and jobs that pay from S$12,000 to less than S$15,000 a month are exempted from the FCF regulations governing the way they advertise their job openings, Channel NewsAsia noted.

The FCF requires employers to advertise job vacancies for 14 days on the country’s so-called Jobs Bank, which is administered by Workforce Singapore (WSG), before submitting EP applications.

Employment passes are meant for foreign professionals, managers and executives – or PMETs, to the acronym-loving Singaporeans  – and require candidates to earn at least S$3,600 a month, in addition to holding acceptable academic qualifications, the Channel NewsAsia report noted.

It quoted a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) statment as saying: “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.”

Separately, Channel NewsAsia and other media organisations, including The Straits Times,  quoted Lim as saying that some 500 companies from various sectors had been placed on an FCF watchlist for unfairly favouring foreigners in their hiring. The names of these companies weren’t given.

Companies on this watchlist are said to have their employment pass applications subject to closer government scrutiny.

Since February 2016, “1,900 EP applications have been either rejected or withheld by the ministry, or withdrawn by the companies”, The Straits Times quoted Lim as telling Parliament, during a debate on the MOM’s budget.

‘Harsher times in Expatland’

As reported, after almost 30 years during which “globalisation” saw a diaspora of myriad nationalities across the globe, various factors have seen growing numbers of countries seeking to stem the tide of foreigners washing up on their shores – apart from those of a high-net-worth disposition who, in certain countries, are willing to pay for their visas and passports in the form of investments.

The trend has been particularly noticeable in the Gulf, where the plunge in the global oil price a few years ago prompted a number of countries to consider ways of making some money from their guest workers. Saudi Arabia, in particular, has been making major changes to its employment regulations in an effort to encourage the hiring of locals ahead of foreigners.

In January, for example, it announced a total ban on workers in 12 areas of its economy, and although it was said that these particular jobs were mainly at the lower-paid end of the scale, in retail and industry, some observers cautioned that it was probably just the first of many such initiatives aimed at ensuring the “Saudisation” of the workforce.

The Saudi action came days after Oman announced a six-month ban on visas for expats from 10 industries, as part of what it said was an effort to encourage companies to hire more Omani nationals.

Even such countries as Australia and the US have announced plans to cut back on certain programmes designed to encourage skilled foreigners to work within their borders.

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