The new jobs bank: will it work?

The new jobs bank: will it work?
Office workers in the Raffles Place area at lunchtime on Friday. Experts say the jobs bank looks promising – providing a national focal point for both firms wishing to hire and Singaporeans looking for work. The transparency of firms having to advertise positions for at least 14 days also means they cannot quietly hire foreigners without letting Singaporeans know the job is there. -- ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

Since news broke six months ago that firms would be made to give Singaporeans a fair chance when hiring skilled workers, many wondered what form it would take.

The labour movement floated proposals. The Manpower Ministry (MOM) held public dialogues.

Employees, local and foreign, waited to see how it would safeguard or squeeze them. Companies wondered if it meant more red tape and increased costs.

On Monday, the wait ended, with the unveiling of MOM's new Fair Consideration Framework.

Its centrepiece is a government-run jobs bank where firms have to advertise jobs for at least 14 days before hiring skilled foreigners on Employment Passes (EPs). And the ministry will keep an eye on firms which face complaints of bias, or have too few skilled Singaporeans.

The aim: to ease concerns that firms may hire foreigners without giving Singaporeans a shot, and to tackle the practice of foreigners "hiring their own kind".

The new question now is: To what extent will this help level the playing field for Singaporeans?

MOM: I am the boss

THE changes are a dramatic departure from MOM's long-standing preference not to interfere with how firms hire and fire.

"It sends a very strong message to employers that 'I am the boss and I want to protect Singaporeans'," says Member of Parliament Zainudin Nordin, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower.

But will it work?

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