Source: Google map screengrab.

Rampant job ads looking for “skilled” foreign workers paying below minimum EP/SP salary

A TOC article (‘F&B group founded by award winning entrepreneur, caught for deceiving MOM‘) about an award-winning boss whose company was caught for falsely declaring foreign workers’ salaries to deceive the Manpower Ministry, triggered a number of responses from netizens.

Many said that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that the practice is fairly widespread in the industry. Many SMEs would try to declare a higher salary for their foreign work applicants so that they could qualify for S-Pass or Employment Pass to work in Singapore. But in reality, they are being paid much lower.

According to information on MOM’s website, criteria for S-Pass include a minimum salary of $2,300 ($2,400 by Jan 2020) while those for Employment Pass include a minimum salary of $3,600. Both require applicants to have “acceptable qualifications”. After getting their work pass approvals, the foreign workers would be paid less than the statutory minimum. They have to return the excess salary back to their boss, usually in the form of cash. Such practices are, of course, illegal.

To illustrate how rampant such illegal practices were, one netizen pointed to the many job postings in Chinese, posted on the Lion City Forum ( – an online forum set up for PRCs working and living in Singapore.

He pointed to job ads seeking S-Pass foreign workers but would only pay a monthly salary of $1,700. The worker can choose either a rental allowance of $250 per month (the market rental rate for bunk beds) or free stay at the residence provided by the employer.

So, at $1,700, the worker will have to pay back the employer $600 ($2,300 – $1,700) a month. Some employers may use this as an excuse to charge their workers for meals provided.

“There are many such similar recruitment ads where the monthly salaries do not meet the minimum EP/S-Pass criteria, posted by recruitment agents in China, as requested by Singapore’s recruitment agents… And the best is: MOM is keeping extremely quiet about all these,” the netizen lamented.

Many ads with advertised basic salaries lower than work pass requirements

Indeed, a quick check on Lion City Forum shows that many job ads did sound very dubious. For example, a person, presumably a recruitment agent, who goes by the moniker TINGTING0309 posted a number of job ads not too long ago:


5. SP waiter/waitress working in air-conditioned restaurant. Below 35. Basic salary $1,400 with $250 housing allowance. Meals included. Working 12 hours a day with 2 rest days per month. Experience required. Mainly to do various odd jobs.

6. SP Hunan chef. Below 35. Basic salary $1,600 with $250 housing allowance. Meals included. Working 12 hours a day with 2 rest days per month. 2 years experience required. Restaurant is air-conditioned.

7. SP Northeast cuisine chef in air-conditioned restaurant. Below 35. Basic salary $1,700. After 3 months of probation, salary increased to $1,800. Housing allowance $200. Meals included. Working 12 hours a day with 2 rest days per month. Overtime $5 per hour. Need to be independent.


SP male or female. An F&B group in Singapore looking for office executives in its HQ. Position: Management Trainee. After 3 months training, can be promoted to Assistant Manager. Job responsibility: Assist in basic accounting and HR matters, and assist General Manager on management matters of different outlets.

Company has more than 10 outlets with more than 100 employees. It has more than 10 years of operating history and it is rapidly expanding SME. Company is currently looking for young and potential people to be trained as management staff so as to help expedite company’s growth.

Language: English (for daily communication and typing) and Chinese.
Education: Degree/Diploma.
Experience: Advantages to have experience in accounting and HR.
Other requirements: motivated, with leadership ability, patience and perseverance, sincere, honest and prudent with logical thinking ability.
Salary: $1,400 during 3-month training, thereafter can increase to $1,600.
Housing allowance: $200.
Working hours: 9 to 6.30pm (6 days). Sunday rest.
Overtime: depend on need (no overtime pay).
Benefits: insurance, medical, bonuses (depend on performance).
Others: Because working in HQ, chances to get pay increments and bonuses higher if performance is good. And if performance is good, can get pay increments every year. Age: 35 below. Address: Bukit Batok.

Obviously, with heavy salary undercutting by unscrupulous companies as well as foreign workers, it can only make lives more difficult for Singaporean workers looking for jobs in their own country.