After raising the qualifying salary for all categories of the employment pass (EP) last July 2011, there was an announcement from the Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM) that the threshold income of the EP will be raised on the 1st of January 2012. These changes, as the Singapore Government believed, would ensure fair hiring grounds for Singaporeans who seek professional jobs.
This year, the MOM announced that the qualifying monthly salary for the new EP applications will again be raised from S$3,000 to S$3,300 on the 1st of January 2014. This change is in line with the rising salaries. In other words, young foreign professionals who apply in Singapore must draw a salary of at least S$3,300 a month to qualify for an EP. This new rule imposed by MOM has the goal of requiring firms to consider Singaporeans fairly before hiring a foreign EP holder for a job. This is the government’s response for the plenty of turbulence experienced by the foreign manpower in Singapore for the past year.
Meeting Singaporeans’ aspirations by providing better jobs and diverse opportunities are considered the ultimate objectives of economic growth. All firms must take action in considering Singaporeans fairly for a job and thus enhance job market transparency. However, discriminatory hiring practices of firms will incur negative consequences for it is against Singapore’s fundamental values of fairness and meritocracy. Such firms will be subject to additional scrutiny and will not have their application for an EP approved.
These new rules are known as the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF). As Acting Minister Tan Chuan-Jin stated, “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.”
Although Singapore has performed well economically in the face of lingering global economic slowdown, there is still a local frustration due to increasing number of foreigners that has been boiling for the past two years. Such frustration is because of the feeling that, together with the foreigners contributing to the overcrowding of Singapore, Singaporeans are being denied of their livelihood because foreigners are taking up all the available jobs. Thus, this is also one of the reasons why MOM imposed such new rules regarding the new EP. Moreover, these changes also affected the Singapore business registration for they resulted in increased eligibility requirements for a Singapore EntrePass—the work permit visa that a businessman must obtain in order to put up a business in Singapore.
Thus, Acting Minister Tan emphasized, “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 recognize 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 fulfill their career aspirations.”