With COVID restrictions in place, Singapore saw a drop in EP holders over the past two years (from 193,700 in 2019 to 161,700 in 2021). As such, over the same period, the share of EP holders earning S$5,000 or higher increased by 5%.
On 4 April 2022 (Monday), Singapore's Minister of Manpower, Dr Tan See Leng responded to Parliamentary questions on employment pass (EP) holders in Singapore, as well as work pass holders that were respectively posed by Members of Parliament (MP) Pritam Singh and Louis Ng.
With regard to EP holders, MP Pritam had asked how many EP holders earned more than S$5,000 in 2019, 2020, and 2021 respectively. In response, Minister Tan first explained that from December 2019 to December 2021, the number of EP holders decreased from 193,700 to 161,700 — which was partly due to COVID-related entry restrictions. As such, over the same period, the share of EP holders earning S$5,000 or higher increased from 82% to 87%.
Minister Tan, on that note, highlighted that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) regularly reviews the EP qualifying salary to keep pace with local professionals, managers, executives & technicians (PMET) wages. At the moment, the EP minimum qualifying salary is S$4,500, and will be raised to S$5,000 from September 2022.
"The qualifying salary increases progressively with age for older and more experienced candidates, up to S$10,500 for a candidate in their mid-40s," the Minister said. "This ensures that EP holders are of good calibre, and are not hired simply because they are cheaper than locals. Correspondingly, the share of EP holders earning higher wages has increased over time".
As for work pass holders, MP Louis had asked how many registered companies in Singapore did not hire work pass holders for the past five years. In specific:
- The number of such registered companies annually, and
- the percentage of such registered companies annually.
To that, Minister Tan responded that over the past five years, there were approximately 160,000 business entities — which are classified as companies, partnerships, and sole proprietorships — that hired at least one worker. Among these business entities, between 45% to 48% did not hire work pass holders, nor hire lower-wage workers.
"As previously explained in the report of the Tripartite Workgroup on Lower-Wage Workers, only 18% of lower-wage workers work in firms that do not hire work pass holders, and almost all of such firms are small scale family businesses with fewer than 10 workers," the Minister added.
Minister Tan, on 5 April (Tuesday), also took the time to address a separate Parliamentary question on the employment rate of unvaccinated employees in Singapore, posed by MP Tan Wu Meng — he wanted to know of the 52,000 unvaccinated employees as of 19 December 2021, how many have ceased employment since 1 January 2022, 1 February 2022, and March 2022.
The Minister revealed that as of 27 March 2022, 98.4% of the total workforce has been vaccinated whilst the number of local and foreign employees who had not taken any vaccine dose has fallen considerably to 36,900.
As for the data on the number of unvaccinated employees who have ceased employment since the workforce vaccination measures came into effect in January 2022, it will only be available in mid-2022.