Singapore Foreign Manpower Policy

Singapore Foreign Manpower Policy

Context and background

In the realm of manpower, change is constant. This is unsurprising given the fact that societal norms change over time, and with-it people’s attitudes, behaviours and ideas as to when, how and which people a company should be employing. While employers and employees play a part in shaping the landscape of manpower management in Singapore, so too does the Ministry of Manpower play an equally influential role by intervening when it sees fit. The position of the Ministry of Manpower has been made clear in a recent turn of events, with significant implications for Singapore Employment Pass holders.

The main issue surrounding the field of manpower management

Despite the general dynamism of the field of manpower management, one aspect has remained a major issue for a rather long period of time and will likely continue to persist for the foreseeable future. This is the uneasy tension between employing foreigners over Singaporeans, or vice-versa. It affects not just employers but employees as well – especially prospective foreign employees seeking to obtain a Singapore employment pass.

One side of the conflict

The case for hiring foreign employees could lie in the fact that numerous such employees come from seemingly less well-off countries, as perceived by the eyes of the employer, and are perhaps more willing to put in extra effort to earn their keep. Such ideas could raise the appeal of hiring foreign workers, from the perspective of the average employer in Singapore. The presence of such a bias may well make it easier for foreigners to obtain a Singapore employment pass. Such interpretations are often coloured by preconceived notions as to the nature of local or foreign employees, buttressed by deep-seated ideas and conventions that can be extremely difficult to shake up. Regardless of this, the Singapore Government is certainly trying to do so, as will be elaborated upon below.

Striking a balance between employing locals and foreigners

Despite the supposed appeal of hiring foreigners, however, there is likewise a case to be made for the hiring of locals as well. Ultimately, this arises in part due to a societal need for a country to protect its own countrymen. Another side of the coin could be that the ability differential between a local and a foreign employee is nothing more than a mere illusion; that employers merely believe as such due to the sheer frequency at which such notions are repeated. Regardless of the underlying reason, however, Parliament’s stance on the present issue is clear – companies must not favour the employment of foreigners over locals. It is all but laid out explicitly that employees must favour the employment of Singaporeans just as much, if not more than, the employment of foreigners. Among other implications, this could make it harder for foreigners to obtain a Singapore employment pass.

Recent statements by the Ministry of Manpower

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say clearly set out, in early 2018, that the practice of favouring the employment of foreigners over that of locals is to be strongly denounced. Offending companies may be placed on a watchlist and closely monitored, with severe implications to follow.

singapore employment pass

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