Govt exploring options for fairer hiring practices

Govt exploring options for fairer hiring practices

A national conversation session on Saturday shed light on the options the Government is exploring to get employers to give Singaporeans fair consideration for jobs.

Some 40 participants - including employers and employees from various sectors - were asked for their views on practices in three economies even as Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin promised changes to the current system.

These changes will seek to address concerns that foreigners are being preferred over Singaporeans for jobs.

At yesterday's session on jobs, facilitators gave presentations on measures used by the United Kingdom, the United States and Hong Kong in three specific areas: demonstrating efforts to recruit locals for jobs, giving justifications for hiring foreigners and showing that locals have not been displaced.

A good number of participants plumped for Hong Kong's practice of requiring employers to give reasons for recruiting a foreigner to fill a vacancy, and the US practice of employers declaring that they have taken steps in "good faith" to recruit locals.

But participants were also divided on the effectiveness of such moves. Some were in favour of having concrete laws to protect Singaporeans while others noted that employers may find a way around the system or that overly rigid rules might affect companies' competitiveness.

In his wrap-up speech, Mr Tan said: "Many of these countries go through some hoops and hurdles. It looks good on paper but does it completely eradicate things? No, it doesn't. But should we leave it completely open as we are today? I would say no. We need to do something."

Speaking to reporters after the session, Mr Tan said a key objective of the changes is to "make sure that we look after all Singaporeans".

Besides measures which will cover "the hiring side of the house", government agencies will also continue to work with companies to ensure an internal pipeline to develop locals, he said. The Government is also looking at enhancing the Employment Pass framework.

When asked to vote on whether they felt there was a level playing field between Singaporeans and foreigners in job opportunities, participants gave a range of responses reflecting the different challenges in different sectors.

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