SINGAPORE - A "SINGAPOREANS first" policy would not benefit the economy in the long term, said Senior Minister of State for Manpower Amy Khor.
It might constrain firms' hiring decisions and prompt them to move out of the country, she cautioned yesterday.
She was responding to Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC), who had called for firms to give qualified Singaporeans priority over foreigners for professional, managerial and executive (PME) jobs on Monday.
Other MPs have also argued for more protection and support for PMEs since the parliamentary debate on the President's Address began on Monday.
Said Dr Khor: "We are in fact putting the interests of Singaporeans first when we say that we want to grow the economy and job opportunities. But we need to be practical about how we go about doing it."
Ms Foo yesterday clarified that while she agreed the country must remain open to international talent, Singaporeans with the right skills should be given the first pick of jobs.
She asked "if the Ministry will consider, going forward, that... (if there are) two equally qualified persons, that the Singaporean will be given the opportunity first".
Dr Khor said the Manpower Ministry's Fair Consideration Framework (FCF), which will take effect from Aug 1, will give Singaporeans with the relevant skills "a fair chance" to compete for jobs.
The ruling requires companies to advertise on a jobs bank for 14 days before applying to hire foreign PMEs on employment passes. However, the firm's eventual hiring decision is left up to them.
Compelling employers to hire local PMEs who might not have the right skills is likely to "introduce significant labour market rigidity", said Dr Khor.
This could ultimately hurt Singaporeans, if companies relocate because their manpower needs are not met.
Instead, the Government's approach has been to maintain a level playing field, and help equip Singaporeans with the skills they need to fill "quality jobs".
"In the globalised economy, competition for jobs tend to be between countries and not only within countries," she said.
This article was first published on May 28, 2014.
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