Tuesday, 3 October 2023

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India-Singapore CECA: 127 kinds of professionals can come for up to a year?

By Leong Sze Hian

Origin of foreign workers is sensitive information?

After writing the article “Population data cannot breakdown because not in our interests?” (Mar 8), I had the nagging feeling that there may be more to the story that “”It may have implications on specific groups or persons or create sensitivities in the countries of origin of those who are working here or those who might have migrated here.

“For example, while we seek to diversify the foreign workers in Singapore, it may not be in our interest to provide a detailed breakdown of the numbers and countries of origin of workers in each industry”.

So, I decided to research further.

For starters, I came across the following article :-

Greater access for Indian professionals?

More space sought for professionals in Singapore” (Economic Times, Apr 18, 2010), which said “India will seek greater access for its professionals in Singapore in areas such as IT, health, education and finance in the upcoming review of the bilateral agreement between the two countries. The second review of the comprehensive economic cooperation agreement or CECA that was rolled out in 2005 will begin early next month”.

I was rather intrigued by what the above means. So, I continued my search and found the following article :-

India Govt decries CECA violation?

India Govt decries CECA violation by Singapore” (Business Standard, Feb 17), which said “Those of you planning to make it big in Singapore might be in for a setback. Singapore recently made certain changes to its Employment Pass Framework law to reduce inflow of foreign workers significantly to create more job opportunities for local professionals. The move is expected to impact even those Indians working there at present across various sectors.

The step has irked India as the new law does not give India a preferential treatment incorporated in the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CECA) between the two countries, operational since 2005. This stance by the Singapore Government is expected to affect Indians working as middle-level managers, executives and technicians.

Speculations are rife that India might take up the issue with World Trade Organization’s (WTO) dispute settlement body.

According to Indian officials involved in the negotiations, this is a violation of the services trade agreement under CECA. This will also adversely affect Indians who are working there as it might lead to job losses, especially for the middle level workers.
India has submitted a request to Singapore for addressing the matter but has not received a formal communication yet.
Currently, there are about 200,000 non-resident Indians in Singapore working in ITES, financial services and scientific research sectors among others, according to one estimate.”
127 professionals can come for up to a year?

According to the India-Singapore CECA, ” Chapter 9 – Movement of Natural Persons – Article 9.5 – Long-Term Temporary Entry – Professionals – “Each Party shall grant temporary entry and stay

for up to one year or the duration of contract, whichever is less, to a natural person seeking to engage in a business activity as a professional, or to perform training functions related to a particular profession, including conducting seminars, if the professional otherwise complies with immigration measures applicable to temporary entry, on presentation by the natural person concerned of:
(a) Proof of nationality of the other Party;
(b) Documentation demonstrating that he or she will be so engaged and describing the purpose of entry, including the letter of contract from the party engaging the services of the natural person in the host Party; and
(c) Documentation demonstrating the attainment of the relevant minimum educational requirements or alternative credentials.”
A “professional means a natural person of a party who is employed in a specialised occupation as listed in Annex 9A “. (List of 127 Professionals)

Counted in employment passes?

So, what does the above mean – that professionals in the 127 occupations can come to Singapore for up to one year? If its not more than a year, are they counted in any of the normal foreign employment pass categories like the employment passes?

Counted in foreign worker statistics?

Are all of them counted in the annual statistics on the increase in foreign workers, employment passes, etc?

And what are the implications for Singaporeans?

FTA and HR experts – please help?

Can the experts in FTAs or human resource help to share with us on this subject?

References: Govt helpless in stopping foreign PMETs besieging S’pore (TR Emeritus, Feb 23)
CECA also benefits SG – don’t write misleading articles on TRE (TR Emeritus, Feb 20)
Why sign CECA? It really beats me… (TR Emeritus, Feb 19)

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