In a Facebook post on the first day of 2020 yesterday (1 Jan), Manpower Minister (MOM) Josephine Teo said that her ministry fights for “fairness” at the workplace everyday.
“Every single day, my colleagues at MOM actively pursue fairness at the workplace,” she wrote.
“For jobseekers, fairness is when employers hire on merit. When a job is advertised, there should be no closed ‘circle of friends’ who are favoured. When a person is the best candidate, gender, age, race, physical or past medical conditions should not be barriers. That is why we have the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (Tafep).”
She then said that starting this year, MOM plans to update the Fair Consideration Framework. She said, “Expect stronger deterrence for discrimination against Singaporeans when hiring, but also stronger support for employers who are committed to giving our people a fair chance.”
Ms Teo further promised, “As clichéd as it may sound, the pursuit of fairness at the workplace is a journey without end. We must always strive to do better. We can and we will.”
The Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) was introduced in August 2014 after Singaporeans voiced unhappiness about foreigners taking away good-paying PMET jobs from locals.
Under the rules then, companies with more than 25 employees must advertise PMET jobs that pay less than $12,000 a month. The advertisements need to be placed in the national Jobs Bank for at least 14 days before the firms can apply an Employment Pass (EP) for any foreign job applicants.
The framework was tightened last year to cover firms with more than 10 employees and jobs that pay less than $15,000 a month.
Jobs Bank a “wayang”
Since the launch of the national Jobs Bank supposedly to enable Singaporeans to be considered first for jobs posted there before considering any foreign applicants, many have questioned its effectiveness.
Not surprisingly, many have called the “Jobs Bank” a “wayang” – just for show. This is because a company bends on hiring a foreigner can still put up the job advertisement on Jobs Bank for 14 days just for compliance sake before hiring the foreigner. The company can always give the excuse that all the Singaporean applicants cannot meet their requirements or the foreign applicant outshines all the Singaporeans in the job interviews.
For example, the following posting was found on Singapore Expats Forum. Apparently, a company had already offered a job to a foreigner. However, the company told him to wait as they had to first post the job advertisement on Jobs Bank for 14 days.
Then for the next 10 days, the foreigner did not see the said job advertisement on Jobs Bank and began to panic. He then wrote to Singapore Expats Forum for advice:
In this particular case, one has to ask how could the company select the foreigner for the job even before putting up the job advertisement on Jobs Bank?
NTUC Assistant Secretary-General also questions the effectiveness of Jobs Bank
Even National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), a labour union that has been mostly supportive of PAP government, voiced its concern on whether the advertising requirement under FCF works.
In a media interview in 2015, NTUC Assistant Secretary-General and PAP MP Patrick Tay said, “Now the question is whether just by having that advertising requirement is sufficient to nudge employers to take the bold step to hire more Singaporean PMEs because it’s just a mere advertising requirement; there’s no requirement for employers to share placement figures.”
“We do not have data on rates of placement for some of these jobs advertised in the jobs bank. That’s one area I think can be improved on. Sharing data, how many of these jobs are posted, how many of these jobs actually got to local PMEs.”
In 2016, an employer wrote to TOC exclaiming his shock when he saw one after another resumes from foreigners sent in. He said that he was disappointed with how Jobs Bank fails to perform its set goal to strengthen the Singaporean core in the workforce, by allowing foreigners to send in the job applications and asked why there was no filters put in place to ensure only Singaporeans can submit their job applications.
Indeed, how many of the jobs posted on Jobs Bank actually go to Singaporeans?