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MOM addresses concerns that new jobs are not going to Singaporeans, amidst increase in foreign employment

MOM addresses concerns that new jobs are not going to Singaporeans, amidst increase in foreign employment

The Ministry's focus and interest first lies in whether Singaporeans who want to find a job, can do so, Minister for Manpower Dr. Tan See Leng affirmed.

Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has addressed concerns that an increase in foreign employment means that jobs are not going to Singaporeans.

In a Parliamentary response on Tuesday (2 April 2024), Minister for Manpower Dr. Tan See Leng affirmed that MOM's focus and interest lies in whether Singaporeans who want to find a job, can do so. As the Minister clarified, one way to look at this is to examine the resident employment and unemployment rates — in 2023, Singapore's resident employment rate was 66.2%.

"This puts us as having the fourth highest resident employment rate compared to other advanced economies in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)."

The resident unemployment rate and long-term unemployment rate also remained very low at 2.7% and 0.7% respectively, or "close to full employment".

Illustrating the Government's efforts in safeguarding resident employment, resident employment growth "remained robust" over the 2020-2022 period, where COVID-19 had an impact on the economy and labour market. As a result, the number increased by over 110,000 while non-resident employment declined by 3,000.

Secondly, with slowing resident workforce growth, Minister Tan stated that it is imperative that Singapore "remains open to complementary foreign labour to meet the demands of a growing economy and businesses."

Taking a closer look at the non-resident employment growth of 83,500 last year, only 18,700, or 22.4%, was from higher-skilled Employment Pass (EP) and S Pass holders — the total number of EP and S Pass holders combined remains below pre-COVID levels.

The remaining increase of 64,800, accounting for more than 77%, was due to an increase in the number of holders for Work Permits and other Work Passes, in sectors such as construction.

"There is a global shortage of skilled talent, with global cities competing for both investments and human capital. To stay competitive and nurture a vibrant corporate ecosystem, we need to ensure that our businesses can access talent and expand. Thriving businesses create jobs for Singaporeans; they contribute taxes, which in turn can be used to improve the livelihoods of Singaporeans."

Singapore also continues to enhance the complementarity of its foreign workforce. It currently pegs the minimum costs of hiring EP and S Pass holders to the top one-third of local professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), and associate professionals and technicians (APTs) respectively.

By regularly updating the qualifying salaries based on the set wage benchmarks, Singapore hopes to ensure that its EP and S Pass holders are of "high quality and maintain a level-playing field for locals".

At the same time, the Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS), which came into effect for new EP applications in September 2023, also allows for a more holistic evaluation of EP candidates based on individual and firm-related attributes. This ensures that employers bring in the right profile of foreign workers to complement the local workforce, and that companies develop healthy workforce profiles that are powered by a strong local core.

"The fundamental objective of our approach is to strike a balance between ensuring that businesses have access to skills and manpower needed to grow and succeed, while creating opportunities for our local workers to grow and progress. Our approach has helped our locals to secure good jobs."

Between 2013 and 2023, the number of resident PMETs increased by 380,000 and the number of EP and S Pass holders increased by 50,000. In growth sectors such as finance, infocomm and professional services, resident PMETs increased by 190,000 and the number of EP and S Pass holders increased by 20,000.

Ultimately, resident income has also increased by 21.6% in real terms.

"So, we must not view residents and foreigners as a zero-sum game and continue to draw divides. Thriving businesses with access to complementary foreign talent will not only lead to more job creation but also improve overall wage outcomes as businesses expand and improve their productivity.

"By growing our economic pie, we will be better able to secure positive outcomes for Singapore and Singaporeans", Minister Tan concluded.

ALSO READ: MOM Committee of Supply 2024: Singapore to raise minimum monthly qualifying salary for new EP applicants from 2025

Lead image / 123rf.com

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