There are still 350 companies on the government watch list of entities that unfairly hire foreigners over Singaporeans, said Minister of Manpower Josephine Teo during the debate in parliament on MOM’s budget on 5 March. Of the 610 companies that were on the list, 260 have been taken off.

The firms that remain on the list of the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) includes those across all sectors and sizes, with the top five sectors being administrative and support services, education, information and communications, professional services, and wholesale trade.

The FCF was launched in August 2014 as part of the government’s effort to increase the representation of Singaporeans in the workforce, setting out expectations for companies to fairly consider Singaporeans for job opening. In July last year, the FCF requirements were expanded so that more companies have to advertise more vacancies to locals before MOM will accept their Employment Pass (EP) applications.

EPs allow foreign professionals, managers and executives (PMET) to work in Singapore. So companies that end up on the watch list will have their EP applications scrutinised more closely by MOM.

Mrs Teo was responding to a question by members of parliament who asked for an update on the watchlist. She said that about 2,300 EPs have been rejected or withheld by MOM or withdrawn by employers since 2016.

The Minister added that while the authorities do take a strong stance against companies that unfairly reject Singaporeans for job vacancies, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) does work with companies to improve their human resource practices and support local hiring.

Mrs Teo gave an example of a company in the architecture industry which was placed on the watch list back in 2017 and were uninterested in working with Tafep at first.

After repeated unsuccessful attempts at engaging with the company, MOM proceeded to curtail the firms work pass privileges. The HR manager then submitted multiple appeals to her Member of Parliament to take the firm off the watch list, saying that the EPs were crucial as workers were needed for a public sector project.

MOM looked into the case, consulting with the agencies overseeing the project, and found that the company did barely anything to improve the hiring of Singaporeans. As such, MOM rejected its EP applications and the MP’s appeal on behalf of the company.

The company, now with no shortcut available, decided to reach out to Workforce Singapore and committed to taking on interns from local polytechnics and universities. In the period of 18 months, the company had hired an addition 14 Singaporeans, said the Minister.

Mrs Teo went on to acknowledge that Tafep may be unpopular but she urged MPs to support and back MOM’s moves even if these listed companies appealed to them.

“I can assure you that Tafep is not vindictive. It only seeks to ensure that our PMETs’ interests are properly safeguarded,” she said. “Employers who are fair to locals need not worry, but if they are not, please understand why we don’t accept it.”

She emphasised that MOM is firm when dealing with employers who attempt to circumvent regulations. MOM does this by keep an eye out for firms on the watch list that uses related businesses or entities to apply for EPs.

“For such cases, we can — and have — curtailed the work pass privileges of all the related entities,” she said.

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