New rules will give S'poreans fair chance at job opportunities

SINGAPORE - Companies like scrap metal firm Kim Hock Corporation prefer to hire Singaporeans, but end up hiring more foreigners instead.

It could be due to a poor qualification fit or different expectations of salary.

Or it could be that certain positions are just not popular with locals, said Ms Joyce Lim, the human resources administrative manager at Kim Hock Corporation.

"There's a certain stigma attached to some of these jobs, like welders and mechanics," she said.

"Even for positions like engineers, we receive twice as many applications from foreigners than Singaporeans."

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Monday announced the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF).

This comes after feedback from Singaporeans during the MOM's Our Singapore Conversation.

The FCF aims to allay the concerns of Singaporeans who have shared anecdotes of companies favouring foreigners over locals for various reasons.

Explaining the context of the FCF, which will come in effect in August next year, Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin 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."

In a blog entry, Mr Tan acknowledged that the FCF is not a "silver bullet" to solve the problem.

Industry experts point out that the lack of legislation may mean that companies can still get away without giving much thought to hiring locals.

But at the end of the day, the whole idea of the FCF is "really to tell the employers not to be biased", said Mr Chan Chong Beng, the president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises.


"The FCF is to tell employers to give (Singaporeans) the priority. And if you really cannot get it, the ministry will try to help you out," he said.

Mr Ho Meng Kit, the chief executive officer of the Singapore Business Federation, agreed, adding that the effectiveness of the framework will be "very small".

"The FCF is merely the Government's way of signalling to employers, to remind them to consider hiring Singaporeans instead of taking the easy way out and hiring foreigners," Mr Ho said.

He added that the framework is part of the Government's baby steps towards a long-term plan.

"The PMEs will grow to make up two-thirds of the workforce in less than 20 years' time.

"The Government thus wants to use this FCF to signal to companies that you need to put in effort to create a Singaporean core in the workforce."

A negative impact that could spin off from the FCF is that Singaporeans may think that the Government is trying to protect them, Mr Ho pointed out.

But Mr Tan emphasised that the FCF is not about "hiring Singaporeans first" or "hiring them 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," he said.

What is FCF?

The Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) is a set of rules that requires employers to consider Singaporeans fairly before hiring Employment Pass (EP) holders.

Under FCF, firms will have to put up job vacancies on a national jobs bank for at least 14 calendar days before making an application for an EP, which is for foreign professionals working in managerial, executive or specialised jobs.

The jobs bank, which will be in place by the middle of next year, will be administered by the Workforce Development Agency.

Companies with 25 or fewer employees, or are hiring for jobs paying $12,000 and above a month, will be exempted.

Besides the advertising rule, firms will come under greater scrutiny by the Manpower Ministry if:

- they have fewer Singaporeans holding professional, managerial and executives jobs compared to others in the industry, or

- they have had repeated complaints of discriminatory hiring practices.

Companies can also expect a longer review period for EP applications and may have work pass privileges curtailed.

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