Singapore's COMPASS system: Bonus criteria details released ahead of 1 Sep roll-out

Singapore's COMPASS system: Bonus criteria details released ahead of 1 Sep roll-out

EP applicants filling an occupation on the Shortage Occupation List can earn up to 20 bonus points on COMPASS, "giving firms greater certainty when hiring", the Ministry of Manpower shared.

Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has released details on its Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS), namely the two bonus criteria — the skills bonus (criterion five) and the strategic economic priorities bonus (criterion six).

Initially announced in MOM’s Committee of Supply 2022 speech, COMPASS is a points-based framework that considers both individual and firm-related attributes to holistically evaluate an Employment Pass (EP) applicant’s complementarity to Singapore's workforce. This provides firms with clarity and predictability for manpower planning, and recognises efforts to develop a strong local pipeline and a diverse foreign workforce.

With the bonus criteria, the framework will further allow EP applicants who possess skills in shortage, and firms that contribute to Singapore’s strategic economic priorities, to earn bonus points towards their total COMPASS score. These bonus points will, in turn, help companies secure the complementary foreign manpower necessary to seize economic opportunities in the immediate term, especially in recognition of the limits to the local workforce.

COMPASS will apply to new EP applications from 1 September 2023, and to renewal EP applications from 1 September 2024.

Here is everything you need to know about the two bonus criteria:

Criterion five: Skills bonus

As Singapore moves to capture new economic opportunities, the Government recognises that firms will require access to skilled talent to fill these jobs. It currently works closely with education and training institutes as well as tripartite partners to create a local pipeline by training local graduates and reskilling mid-career workers for these good jobs. However, given the limited local workforce and worldwide competition for talent, the demand for skilled roles will also need to be met by complementary foreign manpower, MOM highlighted.

As such, MOM and the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) developed the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), which recognises EP applicants in occupations that require highly specialised skills that are currently in shortage in the local workforce. The SOL was developed through a robust evaluation process, in consultation with sector agencies and tripartite partners. SOL occupations must exhibit strategic importance to Singapore’s economic priorities, along with a significant degree of labour shortage due to skills gaps.

Thus, effective 1 September, EP applicants filling an occupation on the SOL can earn up to 20 bonus points on COMPASS, giving firms greater certainty when hiring. It should be noted, however, that bonus points are reduced to 10 points if the candidate’s nationality forms one-third or higher of a firm’s professional, managerial, executive, and technical (PMET) roles. This is to encourage resilience and diversity in firms in areas requiring these skills.

One key consideration when placing an occupation on the SOL is a strong commitment by the sector agency to work with the industry to develop the local pipeline. This will help address such shortages over time. Commitment efforts include working with Singapore's institutes of higher learning to equip graduates with the necessary skills for the job, as well as instituting programmes to upskill and reskill locals who are already in the sector or in adjacent roles.

The list will be reviewed every three years, but MOM will retain the flexibility to add or remove occupations annually if required by market conditions. The inaugural SOL can be found here

Verification checks and conditions for SOL candidates

For EP applicants who require the SOL bonus points to pass COMPASS, MOM will impose two additional safeguards:

  • First, MOM will conduct additional checks on the applicants, such as checking prior work experiences and whether the applicant has the qualifications, or industry accreditation that are relevant to the declared occupation.
  • Second, such applicants, if approved, will have their employment restricted to the specific shortage occupation. If their employer wishes to redeploy the EP holder to a different job role, the EP holder will be subject to a reassessment of their eligibility for an EP.

Criterion six: Strategic economic priorities bonus

"Singapore seeks to anchor and grow firms that can contribute to the innovative capacity of its economy, enhance global linkages, and strengthen economic competitiveness. This creates good jobs for locals," MOM noted.

With this in mind, the strategic economic priorities (SEP) bonus helps recognise firms undertaking ambitious investment, innovation, internationalisation, or company and workforce transformation activities. Firms receiving the SEP bonus will be awarded 10 bonus points on COMPASS for each EP application submitted.

To qualify for the SEP bonus, firms must be supported by sector agencies or the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC). To be considered, firms must then participate in one of the eligible programmes run by agencies that have been listed, and demonstrate commitment to developing the local workforce. Firms that are supported will be notified by MOM from end-July 2023.

Supported firms will receive the SEP Bonus for up to three years. To continue receiving the SEP bonus after three years, firms are required to meet expectations on the COMPASS firm-related criteria; criterion three (diversity), and criterion four (support for local employment). 

MOM has shared that firms can access the Workforce Insights tool on MyMOM Portal to further understand their performance on the firm-related criteria of COMPASS, and benchmark their performance against industry peers.

Following the announcement on the enhancements, Assistant Secretary-General of NTUC Patrick Tay expressed his thoughts in a Facebook post, noting that having diversity as one of the safeguards on the SOL list as well as a core criterion of COMPASS "will improve workplace fairness and help to address the concerns of many local PMEs."

"In this regard, the new COMPASS framework provides a more transparent, fairer and targeted approach for bringing in the complementary foreign talent to ensure that our economy continues to thrive while building a strong Singaporean core."


A comprehensive guide to Singapore's new COMPASS scoring system for EP applications & renewals
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Lead image / Shutterstock

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