EDB and Enterprise SG to make it easier for tech companies to hire FTs even with no qualifications

The Economic Development Board (EDB) and Enterprise Singapore announced yesterday (30 July) that foreign PMETs looking to work in Singapore as “core team members” of technology companies might have more flexible requirements over the application of their Employment Pass (EP).

EDB and Enterprise Singapore will help “facilitate” easier entry of foreign PMETs to become “core team members” of technology companies operating in Singapore. Qualifying companies will have the EP applications of their core team members “facilitated” by the 2 government agencies so that they can get the “talent” they need.

Founder and CEO Sinuhe Arroyo of a tech company said, “Timely onboarding of the right talents is critical to our success in developing world-class AI solutions as well as seizing market opportunities. Entry facilitation for core team members will expedite this onboarding process.”

Foreign talents with “deep skills” but no qualifications can be considered too

But both EDB and Enterprise Singapore did not detail how EP applications for foreign talent will be different for these companies.

When asked by the media to elaborate, an EDB spokesman said manpower flexibilities for the applications of some team members will be provided, if needed.

“This includes considering alternative factors in the application if needed, such as the stock options remuneration of the core team members, or if they have deep skills in place of formal academic qualifications,” said the spokesman.

It’s also not known if the government would excuse these companies from advertising on the National Jobs Bank.

Under the current ruling, companies which want to employ “foreign talents” on EP to work in Singapore must advertise the job position on Jobs Bank for 2 weeks so as to give Singaporeans a chance to be considered for the job first.

In any case, many netizens have commented that the Jobs Bank is a “joke” since companies which are bend on hiring foreigners could easily give all kinds of excuse not to hire Singaporeans.

In the announcement, Chng Kai Fong, Managing Director of EDB, said that the programme will not only give tech companies the “confidence to hire the tech talent they need, but will also create exciting opportunities for Singaporeans to work in globally competitive teams alongside top engineers and entrepreneurs from all over the world. This will enable Singapore to upskill our local talent pool to root more technology companies here and grow the sector.”

But of course, MD Chng might have forgotten that if these tech companies can easily “hire-their-own-kind” from abroad with a much relaxed EP application process, why would they even bother to hire Singaporeans so as to “create exciting opportunities” for Singaporeans to work alongside with their people?

Hiring own kind

This has happened before. In 2013, then Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin told Parliament:

First, “hiring-their-own-kind”, or unfair hiring practices. We have heard anecdotes of how in certain cases, heads of business units or HR managers have a preference for candidates they are familiar with or of the same nationality, for reasons that are irrelevant to job performance and irrespective of whether they are more competent than other candidates.

We have also heard of situations where Singaporeans were retrenched or made to resign in the name of down-sizing, only to realise later that their positions were given to foreigners, who were coincidentally from the same countries as the business heads.

Let me be quite blunt. Would these practices not sound discriminatory? Would any respectable progressive company endorse these practices? If this hiring is indeed because they care only about choosing familiar candidates and not about hiring the “best man for the job”, then such practices have no place in Singapore’s workplaces. Discrimination will not and cannot be tolerated. Stating the principle however does not mean it is easy to implement.

I think we all recognise that proving discrimination is sometimes difficult. It is not always possible to discern whether such hiring practices are legitimately based on the objective requirements of the job or motivated by personal connections. We all know how “guanxi” works. I know that Singaporeans perceive some outcomes to be against the principles of meritocracy and fairness, and I fully understand why we feel angry in the process.

So, if a tech company can now flood its “core team” with foreigners but exclude any Singaporeans, how can Singapore upskill our local talent pool, MD Chng?