SINGAPORE - While some home-grown arts groups are affected by the tightening of foreign employment, the Manpower Ministry said the rules have to be "applied consistently across the board".
However, it gives "some flexibility" in handling the work pass applications from certain foreign artists "on a case-by-case basis, when there is support given by the National Arts Council".
Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin made these comments in a written reply released on Tuesday night, in response to a parliamentary question on the subject raised by Nominated MP for the arts Janice Koh.
Several non-profit arts companies are feeling the heat of the recent hike in the qualifying salary for the Employment Pass (EP), which is for foreign professionals.
They say there is not enough local talent in areas such as dance, music and musical theatre, and that the new rules mean either raising salaries or paying more in levies for the lower-tier S Pass for mid-level skilled foreigners.
Those affected by the new rules, as reported by Life! yesterday, include full-time contemporary dance group Arts Fission Company and professional orchestras such as the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra and the Singapore Chinese Orchestra.
Ms Koh had asked whether policies on foreign manpower "can be refined to take into account the modest pay scales of skilled arts professionals and the freelance nature of work in these sectors".
In his reply, the minister explained the need for a fixed monthly salary to be a key criterion in determining a foreigner's eligibility for a work pass.
He said this fixed monthly salary is "taken as a proxy of a foreigner's quality and economic contribution to Singapore. This is a basic requirement for EP or S Pass applications and is applied consistently across the board".
He added: "To allow variable payments to be counted in the monthly salary for work pass eligibility would undermine this intent, as some foreign employees may end up not earning that monthly salary, for example, due to poor sales in the case of commissions."