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Oil refinery and oil tanker ship in sea, Singapore (photo: Prasit Rodphan / Shutterstock.com)

Singapore needs to rethink its management of local & foreign talent if it wants to remain competitive in oil and gas industry

Recently, Singapore has been tightening the hiring requirements for expats. It’s now getting harder and harder for local companies to hire foreign talent, be it mid-level to managerial staff and beyond. This is becoming a real struggle for both expats and local business.

One expat turned citizen, Phillip John William, who has been in Singapore for 43 years shared his thoughts on these tightening regulations on a Facebook forum. Specifically, he pointed out that expats are “being forced out of Singapore in droves” due to multiple rejections for permanent residency or citizenship – some of these expats have been living in Singapore for years but still struggle to make their move permanent.

He writes, “the standard response from the respective Ministry when contesting an applicants rejection - even those who have been established here for decades - is to either increase their salary to the higher rate, downsize your workforce or prioritize on local candidates. This would be a great solution if the talent pool were readily available.”

Another reason companies are hiring fewer expats is of course the ever increasing salary thresholds requirement, that Mr William describes a ‘outrageous’, for expats to re-apply for employment passes to enable them to continue working and living in Singapore. The threshold is getting too high that local companies simply cannot afford.

Currently, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) says that the minimum salary required for an expat to be eligible for an employment pass is $3,600 per month, with older and more experienced candidates needing high monthly salaries to qualify. To add on to this problem, Mr William notes that the government has sought the industry to pay the expats 7k a month in order to qualify for an employment pass.

However, as Mr William pointed out, the local talent pool isn’t quite capable enough to takeover form the foreign counterparts because they lack global experience and exposure. Mr William writes, ‘to be a global player in many of the industries Singapore is promoting, global experience is essential to mentor, properly train and ultimately had over to the local workforce.’

He elaborates that while locals have the necessary paper qualifications, that is no substitute for experience. He says, “professional emigrants are a necessity to sustain the economy” and Singapore’s workforce is simply not able to pick up the slack once the expats are gone. Not only do expats provide professional manpower, they’re also a valuable source of experience that local talent can learn from – but of course, training requires time.

Drawing a comparison between the latest oil & gas exhibition OSEA2018 held in Singapore with the ADIPEC exhibition in Abu Dhabi, Mr William points out the stark different between the two.  “Very few global major oil companies were present in Singapore and it appeared to be full of 'local suppliers vying for business with their 'Rope and Soap, Nuts and Bolts Chinese imported products', By comparison, the booth staff in Abu Dhabi comprised experienced staff who knew their quality international products and the industry intimately,” said Mr William.

By comparison, Singapore only had a few quality offerings and booths were manned by salespersons who didn’t really know what they were selling and were unable to converse with visitors about the industry or their product application.

Mr William noted that about 20 years ago, the oil & gas industry in Singapore was incomparable, competitive, and has a good balance of adept and experienced expats and locals. But the current tightening of expat hiring rules to give locals a chance, is only hurting Singapore instead of helping.

“To survive and compete this local and expatriate balance has to be re-thought, I also refer to any other major industry here. Perhaps the PAP will positively review their stance and appreciate that vote winning myopic policies are having a significant negative impact on the economy and bolstering the willingness of Singaporeans to seek opportunities overseas.”

"The policy will destroy Singapore's credibility." warns Mr William.