SINGAPORE - From August next year, firms that want to hire foreign professionals must prove that they have tried to hire Singaporeans.
These employers have to advertise for Singaporeans to fill the vacancies in a national job bank administered by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, the Manpower Ministry said on Monday. Firms with less than 25 staff will be exempted from advertising rule, or those hiring for jobs paying above $12,000 a month.
Those who do not advertise in the national job bank will have the foreigners' Employment Pass (EP) applications rejected. The move is part of a Fair Consideration Framework announced by the ministry that requires employers to consider Singaporeans fairly before hiring foreigners.
Besides the advertising rule, firms that have "disproportionately low concentration of Singaporeans" holding profession, managerial and executives jobs will have their hiring practices come under greater scrutiny by the ministry. The MOM will however not name these firms.
Said Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin: "These changes are part of a broader effort to ensure that good jobs continue to be created for Singaporeans. Many Singaporeans we spoke to understand the need for a diverse workforce. They recognise the need to compete for jobs on the basis of merit. The framework is not about 'Hire Singaporeans First, or Hire Singaporeans Only'. What the government is doing is to help them get a fair opportunity."
The MOM also announced on Monday a higher minimum salary for EP applications. From January next year, the qualifying salaries for all new EP applications will be raised to $3,300 from $3,000, in line with rising salaries.
The move is not part of the Fair Consideration Framework.
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Here is a press release on the Fair Consideration Framework from MOM:
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) today announced new rules that require employers to consider Singaporeans fairly before hiring Employment Pass (EP) holders. Firms with discriminatory hiring practices will be subject to additional scrutiny and may have their work pass privileges curtailed. These changes will reinforce expectations for employers to consider Singaporeans fairly for job opportunities and enhance job market transparency.
"Providing better jobs and diverse opportunities to meet Singaporeans' aspirations are the ultimate objectives of economic growth. Even as we remain open to foreign manpower to complement our local workforce, all firms must make an effort to consider Singaporeans fairly. 'Hiring-own-kind' and other discriminatory practices that unfairly exclude Singaporeans run against our fundamental values of fairness and meritocracy", said Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin.
The new rules, known as the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF), draw on feedback from Singaporeans who have submitted their views to MOM, through MOM's Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) on Jobs1, and from key stakeholders such as the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and employer groups.
Elaborating, Acting Minister Tan said, "What we are doing is to put in place measures to nudge employers to give Singaporeans - especially our young graduates and Professionals, Managers and Executives (PMEs) - a fair chance at both job and development opportunities. But fair consideration is fundamentally about attitudes and mindsets. It is neither possible to change mindsets overnight nor legislate the problem away. We must set expectations about what is acceptable and what is not. It requires persuasion, explanation, and leading by example. The worst employers must be taken to task. This is the context for the Fair Consideration Framework."
A. Key features of the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF)
Considering Singaporeans fairly and improving job matching
MOM expects all firms to consider Singaporeans fairly for jobs, based on merit. All firms are strongly encouraged to advertise their job vacancies and must ensure that jobs advertised are open to Singaporeans.
Firms making new EP applications2 must advertise the job vacancy on a new jobs bank administered by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA). The advertisement must be open to Singaporeans, comply with the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, and run for at least 14 calendar days.
These requirements must be met before an EP application is submitted to MOM. These new rules will come into effect on 1 August 2014.
Advertising on the jobs bank will benefit both employers and Singaporean job-seekers, as it facilitates better matching of vacancies with job-seekers. Employers will have access to a larger pool of potential candidates. It will also increase the visibility of job openings to all Singaporeans, and will help more to benefit from the better jobs created.
Additional scrutiny for firms which may have discriminatory HR practices
MOM and other government agencies will also identify firms that may have scope to improve their hiring and career development practices. For example, these firms may have a disproportionately low concentration of Singaporeans at the PME level compared to others in their industry or have had repeated complaints of nationality-based or other discriminatory HR practices. Such firms will be asked to provide additional information to MOM such as:
Organisation charts with nationality information;
- Recruitment processes;
- Staff grievance handling procedures;
- Framework for staff progression; and
- Plans to develop local internal staff to take on higher roles or reduce reliance on EP holders.
If firms are not responsive towards improving their recruitment and training practices, MOM may impose additional requirements, such as requiring the firm to:
Attest that the firm will not displace any similarly employed Singaporean within 60 calendar days before or after applying or renewing EPs; and
Display a factsheet containing key information submitted to MOM at its workplace.
Unresponsive firms should expect greater scrutiny and a longer review period for their EP applications. They may also have their work pass privileges curtailed.
Some practical exemptions are needed, especially at the start. Small firms with 25 or fewer employees, and those jobs which pay a fixed monthly salary of $12,000 and above, will be exempted from the advertising requirement in paragraph 6 for practical reasons. However, if complaints are received of nationality-based or other discriminatory HR practices, these firms will attract additional scrutiny and may have their work pass privileges curtailed.
Acting Minister Tan said, "Singapore has and will remain open to skills and workers from overseas. This has benefited Singaporeans because it allows firms to set up and create jobs in Singapore. But this must not come at the expense of fair HR practices. For Singaporeans to continue to benefit from economic growth, employers must consider Singaporeans fairly not only when hiring but also for career development opportunities. For example, our younger PMEs should be given the guidance and exposure that they need to develop."
He described how the FCF would signal acceptable norms in HR practices by:
Requiring firms to advertise on the jobs bank before submitting an EP application; and Scrutinising firms that have a low proportion of Singaporeans at the PME level compared to others in their industry, or that have repeated complaints made against them.
Acting Minister Tan added, "If firms are unable to find suitable Singaporeans, they will still be able to hire and bring in the skills they need from overseas in order to build a strong team in Singapore of both local and foreign workers."
B. Enhanced EP qualifying requirements
From January 2014, the qualifying salary for new EP applications will be raised from $3,000 to $3,300, in line with rising salaries. Applicants will have to earn a salary of at least $3,300 a month or more, depending on qualifications and experience:
Young graduates from good educational institutions can qualify if they earn at least $3,300; and Older applicants will have to command higher salaries to qualify, commensurate with the work experience and quality they are expected to bring.
MOM will continue to raise the quality of our foreign workforce and encourage businesses to reduce their reliance on manpower. The government is committed to helping businesses restructure with various schemes available. We will provide lead time for firms to make adjustments to comply with the new EP requirements. Raising the EP qualifying salaries at the various experience levels is also an important effort to keep the playing field fair for Singaporeans of different ages.
C. What the new rules signal
Acting Minister Tan said, "These changes are part of a broader effort to ensure that good jobs continue to be created for Singaporeans. Many Singaporeans we spoke to understand the need for a diverse workforce. They recognise the need to compete for jobs on the basis of merit. The framework is not about 'Hire Singaporeans First, or Hire Singaporeans Only'. What the government is doing is to help them get a fair opportunity. Singaporeans must still prove themselves able and competitive to take on the higher jobs that they aspire to. We will continue investing in our continuing education and training infrastructure so that Singaporeans can upgrade their skills and remain competitive in the workplace. With better skills and fair hiring practices, Singaporeans will have good jobs and fulfil their career aspirations."