Updated: Sep 5, 2021
Since the start of Covid19, people in the world have been living in increasingly uncertain times. The virus' variants have been mutating, with new variant names being introduced one after another....from Alpha to the highly resistant Delta to the new 'Mu'. Each new name sparks concerns and shivers to all.
In Singapore, the rapidly evolving variants have raised concerns in the employment of the PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Engineers and Technical occupations) after several industries like aviation/aerospace, construction, retail, F&B have been seriously impacted by the pandemic. The PMETs' residential status, whether they are Singapore Citizens (SC), Permanent Residents (PRs) or Employment pass (EP)/S Pass, have become a widely discussed topic increasingly.
PMET's employment has been discussed in many Parliament sessions and social media platforms since Covid19 started. Voices of unhappiness have been heard more than often that foreign PMETs are 'over populated' in some popular sectors. We need to view such 'unbalanced' phenomenon objectively.
To date, Government has implemented the following to control the number of foreign PMETs working in Singapore :
1) Longer and more stringent criterion for EP/S pass applications
Job posting duration in Government job banks has been changed from 15 days to the current 28 days. At the point of applying for work pass, employers are required to provide reason for not being able to hire a local and to furnish the number of job applicants, shortlisted and interviewed candidates for the role. This is part of Fair Consideration Framework
2) MOM has stopped Letter of consent issuance/renewal
Since May 2021, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has stopped issuing new Letter of Consent (LOC) to Dependent pass holders. Existing LOC holders can continue to work in their current jobs. Once their LOC expires and if the employers wish to continue to hire these DP LOC holders, the former would need to apply for an applicable work pass (EP, S pass or work permit) for them. The work pass applicants will be assessed according to their salary, qualifications and other credentials. Others such as dependency ratio ceiling, and/or levies for the respective work passes will apply.
3) Higher credential (qualification, salary etc.) cut offs for work passes application for the popular sectors.
During the National Day Rally on 29 Aug 2021, PM Lee Hsien Loong delivered 7 highlight. In the 4th highlight - Ensuring a fair playing field at the workplace, PM Lee said that criteria for EP and S Pass holders will be getting more stringent progressively. This is to soothe local workforce's anxieties over job competition with the foreign talents.
As a HR practitioner, my view is that employers (particularly MNCs) in totality can have a good impact in determining the local employment dynamics. They can do so by hiring fairly based on merits, encourage good leadership practices and to be ready to develop and groom aspiring Singaporeans/PRs to take on bigger capacity or senior international roles within their organisations. This is a long term winning strategies for MNCs, not only enjoying the political stability and low corporate tax rates here, but also building stronger employer brandings by nurturing the local workforce to international standards.
Shifting the focus to the local PMETs now, Singapore Government has implemented multiple programs to encourage employers (SMEs and MNCs) to hire and help local workforce. A few to names are Career Support Progamme (CSP) for Employers* , Enhanced Hiring incentive (mid career switch and reskilling for 40 years old and above) and P-Max^ (train and place program which enables SMEs to enhance HR practices for PMETs).
Each SC/PR, whether in employment or in transition for the next opportunities, must be opened to attend/receive training or re-skilling. There are wide varieties of courses available in the web may it be online live streaming or pre-recorded (some may attend in person training). Many of the useful courses are free or comes with a nominal fees, and can be fully funded or receive funding support if attendees meet the requirements. Remember, the benefits for training : enhance professional standing, personal effectiveness and productivity!
In closing, the Government, the employers and fellow SC/PRs need to continue to be in the right mindset to give and receive, to bring our Singapore to greater heights, in years to come!