The conversation surrounding foreign and local employees in Singapore has only heated up over the past few months.

This morning, at Human Resources’ first ever Recruitment Interactive 2013, HR leaders from various industries spoke in a panel discussion about finding a balance between foreign and locally-grown talent, given the new Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) policy, which will come into effect on August 1 next year.

Ow Seng Fong, director of national HR division at the Ministry of Manpower, said the emphasis of the FCF is on encouraging “fair” hiring practices, and there is sometimes a misunderstanding the new rules are about “Singaporeans first”.

“Moving forward, we obviously recognise that Singapore is dependent on the foreign workforce, and part of that reason is because of our low fertility ratio.

“This dependence on the foreign workforce will never go away, and it is a small country after all, and one that is devoid of natural resources. What we need to do is to look at how fast the physical infrastructure of this country will catch up, and when we do catch up, I believe we will not be as tight, so there is optimism there.”

Ow was speaking on a panel with Joy Roman, head of talent solutions for 3M APAC, Patrick Ghielmetti, HR VP at Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts APAC and Lyn Lee, HR VP for Shell’s business service centres.

Lee said she expected the changes to have little effect on the hiring practices at Shell, as the company has been working along this vein for some time now.

“We have been localising our workforce, and for roles that are based in Singapore, first priority always goes to Singaporeans.

“Where we do bring in talent from outside Singapore, it’s usually for the development of graduate hires who are here for two-year stints, or for really senior roles we want based out of Singapore because of the country’s position as a hub.”

Ghielmetti agreed, and said he hopes that when his time comes to leave the company, his role is filled by a local or APAC employee.

“It just makes sense, and it’s what we need to work towards.”

However, he admitted his industry still faces challenges in attracting locals, particularly for jobs that aren’t as popular with Singaporeans.

“Beds still need to be made and plates need to be washed, and we have such a hard time to attract Singaporeans into those positions. We’ve been able to manage it so far, but I want to make it clear that it is a continuous challenge. A dialogue has to continue happening between the public and private sector to see what can be done,” he said.

Something companies and HR leaders should also consider to help ease the crunch is to provide diversity in job roles and help younger employees – and their parents – realised there are opportunities for growth.