Government to consider “short-term flexibility” on foreign worker policy

by Paolo Taruc17 Mar 2017
The Government is prepared to “consider” short term-flexibility for firms on its foreign worker policy, provided they have a clear plan to be more attractive to local talent, according to Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say.

"In the process, if you need to have some short-term flexibility on our foreign worker policy, we are prepared to consider – on the condition there is a clear action plan to upgrade, to transform,"  said Lim on Wednesday as quoted by the Straits Times. He was speaking before senior management and HR representatives in a post-Budget dialogue session.

"There's no disagreement that we need to break the manpower bottleneck. Based on your feedback, I think we are on the right track.”

Lim said companies need to undergo "short-term transitional periods" so each sector can re-emerge more competitive and attractive for local employment, the Straits Times reported.  "In the future, you are going to face a lot of limitations in future growth as we become more manpower-lean."

He suggested that the Government and employers should work more closely to draw in more Singaporeans.

"I want to assure you that for those sectors where job changes are happening very fast, we are going all out to support the job conversions, the upgrading, the re-employability of the workers affected."

The Government has taken action against 50 firms who “have not been receptive or cooperative” about hiring Singaporeans since being placed on the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) watchlist, Lim said in parliament last week.

More than 500 Employment Pass (EP) applications from these employers have either been rejected by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) or withdrawn by the companies. The FCF sets out expectations for companies to consider Singaporeans fairly for job opportunities. Save for specific exemptions, the FCF applies to all firms – they must comply with the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices.

Foreign employment contracted by 2,500 last year, continuing a downward trend since 2011, according to MOM figures. This was mainly due to the decrease in Work Permit Holders (-7,900) in the Manufacturing, Marine and Construction sectors.

Local employees occupy two-thirds of the country’s workforce. The Government wants to see foreign employees complement the local workforce rather than compete with it.


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