ST says sorry for publishing wrong info on how long Indian nationals can work in SG under CECA

Last Saturday (9 Nov), Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said that the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) does not grant Indian nationals unconditional access into Singapore or immigration privileges. The news was picked up by the Straits Times (ST) and reported the following day (‘Free Trade Agreements have created more jobs for Singaporeans: Chan Chun Sing‘, 10 Nov).

Essentially, ST reported:

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing has come out in defence of Singapore’s free trade agreements (FTAs), saying these have helped more Singaporeans get employed in higher-skilled jobs.

He made the point yesterday as he refuted criticism that one such agreement, between Singapore and India, had given Indian professionals unfettered access to jobs and citizenship here.

Such falsehoods, circulated online and in WhatsApp chat groups, were aimed at scaring and dividing Singaporeans at a time of economic uncertainty, he said. Some purveyors of such untruths had gone further to play the racial card.

Warning against such behaviour, he said: “The Government takes a very serious view of these attempts to rattle Singaporeans and divide our society.”

ST also raised the point that CECA critics have pointed to India taking advantage of the “intra-company transferee” clause to move large number of Indian nationals to work here.

ST defended the government saying that the government has said there is a stringent definition for intra-corporate transferees and additional criteria that make it harder to game the system.

It then quoted the example that to qualify under CECA, intra-corporate transferees must have worked for their company for at least one year before being posted to Singapore and they are only allowed to stay for a total term not exceeding five years.

What ST said was incorrect.

TOC points to actual CECA text showing otherwise

Yesterday (11 Nov), TOC also published news of what Chan said on Saturday with regard to Indian nationals working in Singapore under CECA (‘Chan didn’t disclose that there is no economic needs test or quotas on agreed services under CECA‘).

TOC points to the exact text of Chapter 9 on “MOVEMENT OF NATURAL PERSONS” agreed by both countries in CECA. TOC highlighted that CECA allows “intra-corporate transferees” to, in fact, work for up to total of 8 years in the host country.

And added, “Note that for intra-corporate transferees, it is defined as an employee who has been employed for a period of not less than either six months in company and one year industry experience or three years industry experience immediately preceding the date of the application for entry.”

Hence, under CECA, the total number of years an Indian national can work in Singapore as an “intra-company transferee” is 8 and not 5 years, and the person only needs to be recruited by the company in India for just 6 months and not 1 year before his or her transfer to Singapore.

TOC also highlighted that there is no quota requirement imposed on intra-corporate transferees and under Article 9.3 of CECA, all the “intra-corporate transferees” are to be exempted from any “labour market testing” or “economic needs testing”.

“To top it all, Article 9.6 even allows the ‘intra-corporate transferees’ to bring in their spouses or dependents to work here too,” TOC shared.

ST says sorry

After TOC’s article was published yesterday, ST corrected itself and apologised for its erroneous report. Its original online article was later updated late yesterday night with the correct figures:

This morning (12 Nov), ST also published a retraction (‘What it should have been‘) with the following text:

In Sunday’s report, “FTAs have created more jobs for S’poreans: Chan”, we said intra-corporate transferees must have worked for their company for at least one year before being posted to Singapore. We also said they are allowed to stay for a total term not exceeding five years.

These conditions for transferees are set out in the World Trade Organisation’s General Agreement on Trade in Services. But under the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca), such transferees are required to have worked for their company for a period of not less than six months, among other things. They are also allowed to stay for a total term not exceeding eight years.

We are sorry for the error.

It tried to explain its error by saying that it was referencing WTO’s general agreement.

Unemployment rate going up for Singaporeans

Meanwhile, Manpower Ministry released the Labour Market Report Advance Release for Q3 last month, showing that even though growth of total employment was higher, the number of retrenchments rose over the quarter with unemployment rates inching up. The overall unemployment rate increased over the quarter, from 2.2 to 2.3%. For Singaporeans, the unemployment rate was higher rising from 3.2 to 3.3%.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said, “This suggests that mismatches are widening. It could be jobseekers not having the skills to access available jobs, or jobs being insufficiently attractive.”

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