MOM policy change creating problems for employers

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Andrew Loh -

When the Prime Minister announced on 14 July that Singapore will see a further 100,000 foreign workers in the coming year, it was perhaps thought that this will be a boon to employers. However, it seems that while Singapore will see more of such workers, existing foreign workers’ permits are not allowed to be renewed. This is a policy shift by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), and it is creating problems for employers.

Mr Ng runs a restaurant and employs 29 staff. 18 of them are Singaporeans, while 11 are foreigners, mostly Chinese and Malaysians. Two of his workers’ work permits are due for renewal, one of them due by 6 August. When he tried to do so, however, he was told by the MOM that the permits would not be extended. He was advised that if he wanted to keep the two staff, he would have to employ 50 workers under the revised foreign PRC worker quota, which doesn’t make sense to Mr Ng. Why would he want to employ more workers than he would need?

“With the pick-up [in the economy], unless they quickly revise this policy, a lot of employers will face the same problem that I’m facing now,” he said. Indeed, several other employers and business owners have told TOC they too face the same problems.

The Online Citizen spoke to Mr Ng about his predicament. We also sought the views of Mr Leong Sze Hian, a financial expert:

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Leong Sze Hian:

On Wednesday, I was having lunch with friends at a pub-restaurant in the Central Business District (CBD), when I noticed that the waitress serving us looked rather distraught.

I talked to her, and discovered that she is a 21 year old Chinese from Shanxi, China, who paid $8,000 to the employment agent in China in order to come to Singapore to work.

When she applied to work in Singapore, she was told that the renewal of her 2-year work permit would normally not be a problem.

However, now, after working for 2 years, her employer tells her that due to a change in the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) foreign labour policy, her work permit cannot be renewed, as the number of foreign workers that they can hire has been reduced.

As she has barely recouped the $8,000 agent's fee and air ticket that she paid to come to Singapore, she is naturally disappointed with how things have worked, or rather not worked out for her in Singapore.

On Friday, I was lunching at a restaurant when the owner told me that he had to rush to MOM to appeal for a Chinese worker who's work permit has been denied renewal by MOM, because of the change in the foreign workers quota.

Although, his staff strength has remained unchanged, he will have to give up 2 of his Chinese workers because of the policy quota change.

I went with him to MOM, where after waiting for hours, he was told by the staff when his turn finally came, that he would have to go back and email his appeal to the relevant department.

As his first worker's work permit is expring in early August, both him and the worker are very anxious.

The Chinese kitchen helper is a 23-year old male from Henan who also paid $8,000 to come to Singapore to work.

Why say that we need to bring in at least 100,000 more foreign workers so that the economy will not overheat, and then refuse to renew the existing work permits of those wo have paid a lot of money to come to Singapore?

This is also causing a lot of headaches for employers, as their foreign worker quotas have been reduced.