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Foreign talent’s endeavour shows MOM’s Fair Consideration Framework can be circumvented

A foreign software engineer posted a request on the Singapore Expats Forum to get some advice from fellow expats last month (17 Oct).

The forum is meant for expat community in Singapore to share various tips on job matters as well as living issues in Singapore.

The foreign engineer said he has been working in Singapore for 2 years with a monthly salary of $6,700.

However, his Employment Pass (EP) with the current company will expire on 1 Feb next year and his EP must be renewed the latest by 1 Dec this year. He said that his company would be applying to renew his EP around mid-November.

Then, he revealed that he has actually been offered a new job in another company which he is quite keen to join.

The problem is that the new company is having issues in getting Manpower Ministry (MOM) to approve EP of their new hires because of "bad foreigner to local ratio".

To get around the problem, it went ahead to get an agency, essentially a body shop, to hire him under the agency's name.

The foreign engineer said, "The problem is agency says they need to post ad on Job banks for 14 days then they will apply, ie in first week of November and then I have to wait for EP."

"MOM has rule that it does not allow simultaneous more than one application for a person so my issue is if my new employer apply for EP and it gets rejected and my old employer cannot apply for renewal then I will be in trouble," he added.

"So I want to ask should I get my renewal done first and then apply for new EP or just directly apply for new EP and leave renewal?"

MOM's Fair Consideration Framework circumvented on 2 counts

In recent years, due to the many job discrimination against Singaporean job seekers, MOM came up with the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) which sets out clear expectations for companies to consider Singaporeans fairly for job opportunities.

Firstly, companies which want to hire foreigners on EP must advertise the job vacancies on the national Jobs Bank. The job advertisement must run for at least 14 calendar days so as to give the locals a chance to apply for the job first before giving it to foreigners.

However, in the foreign engineer case, the agency has, in fact, already decided to hire him and it is just going through the motion to advertise the job vacancy on Jobs Bank for procedural sake.

Secondly, under FCF, MOM can scrutinize hiring practices of companies. It will identify and engage companies that have scope to improve their hiring and career development practices.

These companies may include those that have a disproportionately low concentration of Singaporeans at the PMET level compared to others in its industry, or had repeated complaints of nationality-based or other discriminatory HR practices, MOM said on its website.

"Unresponsive companies may have their work pass privileges curtailed," MOM said.

As revealed by the foreign engineer, the new company which he wants to join already has EP problems with MOM due to "bad foreigner to local ratio".

However, the company ingeniously tries to circumvent the curtailment by engaging a 3rd-party agency to hire on its behalf.

While it is commendable that MOM was able to establish FCF in trying to help Singaporeans, the talented foreigners are even better at coming up with countermeasures to get around the Singapore government.