Mr Lim, a Singaporean employer tried to recruit Singaporeans for his company at the JobsBank, a government jobs portal, but was shocked when resumes started to come in one by one from foreigners who are Permanent Residents currently working in Singapore.
Jobs Bank that was launched in August 2014, describes itself on the website as a free service provided to all Singapore-registered companies and local individuals (Singapore Citizens and Singapore Permanent Residents). But at the same time, states it is implemented in support of the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) which aims to strengthen the Singaporean core in the workforce and applies to all companies in Singapore.
Mr Lim shared with TOC that he had wanted to support the initiative of increasing jobs available for Singaporeans by listing IT job vacancies of his company at the JobsBank, with a salary range of $3,000 to $6,000.
He said that he was disappointed with how JobsBank fails to perform its set goal to strengthen the Singaporean core in the workforce by allowing foreigners to send in the job applications and ask why was there no filters put in place to ensure only Singaporeans can submit their job applications.
Other than informing TOC about his experience with JobsBank, Mr Lim also sent queries to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment (TAFEP) on June 7.
"The Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) is part of the Government’s overall effort to strengthen the Singaporean core in the workforce. As part of the implementation of FCF, the Jobs Bank is implemented for employers to advertise job vacancies.
In the FAQ of JobsBank, it states that the Jobs Banks is available to "Local Individuals (Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents) who have registered for an account on Jobs Bank will be able to...Create or upload resumes, Apply for jobs..."
If the objective of the FCF is to strengthen the Singaporean core in the workforce, then why does the Jobs Bank allow Permanent Residents (SPRs) to register and apply for job vacancies listed in Jobs Bank? I look forward to your clarification on the above."
Till today, there has been no reply from either of the agencies to Mr Lim.
Former-Minister of Manpower, Tan Chuan Jin in his officiating speech during the launch of Jobs Bank, said that the Jobs Bank will complement existing Government efforts to provide another avenue for Singaporeans to explore and apply for job opportunities, as well as allow employers to access a larger pool of local candidates.
Since August 1, 2014, employers who wish to apply for a new Employment Pass for a foreigner will have to first advertise the job vacancy on the Jobs Bank and consider Singaporeans fairly under the advertising requirement under the FCF.
However, questions have been raised if Jobs Bank is really of any meaningful use as employers can simply by-pass the advertising requirement by listing the jobs on the job portal for the required time period and go on to hire foreign workforce by saying that no Singaporean job applicant can fit the job requirement.
Even National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), a labour union that has been mostly supportive of the policies by the People's Action Party (PAP) led administration, voiced its concern on whether the advertising requirement under FCF works.
NTUC Assistant Secretary-General and PAP MP, Patrick Tay said in June last year, “Now the question is whether just by having that advertising requirement is sufficient to nudge employers to take the bold step to hire more Singaporean PMEs because it’s just a mere advertising requirement; there’s no requirement for employers to share placement figures,”
“We do not have data on rates of placement for some of these jobs advertised in the jobs bank. That’s one area I think can be improved on. Sharing data, how many of these jobs are posted, how many of these jobs actually got to local PMEs.”
However, there does not seem to be any strong desire by MOM to close or to ensure this loophole is not exploited. This is exemplified in Mr Tan's replies to questions in relation to the Jobs Bank in Parliament on September 8, 2014.
Former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP), Gerald Giam Yean Song had asked whether MOM tracks what proportion of the Jobs Bank posts are eventually secured by Singaporeans. if not, whether there are plans to measure and publish such data by requiring employers to disclose the outcome of their job postings; and whether such data can be cross-referenced with data from Employment Pass and S-Pass application processes to yield patterns and causes for PMET jobs not going to Singaporeans.
Mr Tan answered by saying that the Jobs Bank and the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) was not set up to guarantee local job seekers that they will always get the job.
"This will continue to be determined on the basis of merit, and to the best applicant for the job. There can be various reasons why an employer may not end up hiring the Singaporean candidate after considering applications fairly. For example, in the IT sector, there could be jobs that require technical skills or domain knowledge of legacy programming languages, which IT firms use in supporting legacy IT systems of many companies that our local workforce may not possess in sufficient numbers. Likewise, Singaporean job seekers have their reasons for not accepting job offers – for example – if employers are unable to meet their expectations in terms of job scope and other personal considerations." said Mr Tan.
He added, "Even when Singaporeans apply for a job that they see on the Jobs Bank, we cannot directly track this. For example, job seekers may apply through firms’ in-house HR portals. Therefore, data on the number of Singaporeans who were placed in a job vacancy which was advertised on the Jobs Bank would not be a representative or accurate indicator of how well Singaporeans are doing in the labour market in general."
MP for West Coast GRC, Ms Foo Mee Har had also asked the former minister of manpower, how many and percentage of Singaporeans have applied for jobs posted on the Jobs Bank portal.
However, Mr Tan did not answer straight to Ms Foo's questions but merely mentioned the number of Singaporeans who have signed up with the Jobs Bank and how many employers have posted job vacancies.
TOC wrote to MOM in June 13, and asked why does the Jobs Bank allow non-Singaporeans to partake as applicants for the Jobs Bank scheme, given that its goal is to strengthen the Singaporean core in the workforce.
Despite replying that the ministry will give TOC an answer on June 14, MOM has yet to provide any response by the time this article was published.