Last month (17 Jan), a member of the public Colin Loh Yoon Fui wrote to ST Forum arguing the need to impose quota on foreigners applying for employment pass (EP).
Mr Loh said, “Singaporeans should always be given priority for jobs that they can and will do, such as in information technology, administration and operations.”
With regard to the recent announcement by Manpower Minister Josephine Teo to impose heavier penalties on employers with discriminatory hiring practices, Mr Loh noted that there will always be ways for companies to get around the Fair Consideration Framework.
“For example, not calling Singaporeans for an interview, unreasonable language considerations, perfunctory job postings and/or interviews, setting low pay, or unfair pre-conditions,” he elaborated.
“Rules cannot be implemented well if there is no effective enforcement. With the penalty of non-compliance being so low, there is really no pressure on firms to adhere to the framework. Thus, the new regime will not work,” Mr Loh opined.
He proposed that a better way would be to implement a quota system for all jobs, including those under employment pass, paying below $15,000 a month in tandem with the framework.
“This way, there would really be no way for firms to game the system, and Singaporeans would have a fair go at jobs,” he added.
SNEF Executive Director Koh: Imposing quota affects companies’ competitiveness
In response, Koh Juan Kiat, Executive Director of Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), wrote to ST Forum today to denounce Mr Loh’s proposal (‘Forum: Extending quota system to employment passes would constrain firms‘, 3 Feb).
Mr Koh said that the ability to attract skilled workers from any part of the world is crucial to Singapore and the most recent labour market survey by the government already shows robust local employment growth last year (26,500).
“As there is already a quota system for other types of work passes, extending the quota system to employment passes would constrain companies in hiring the most suitable person for the job, and affect their business strategies, global talent hunt and competitiveness,” he said.
“Using eligibility criteria and the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) for the hiring of skilled foreigners balances the need to keep the labour market open while ensuring Singaporeans are fairly considered for jobs.”
He added that this approach has worked well as the number and share of PMETs among employed Singaporeans have increased from 742,800 (47 per cent) in June 2009 to 1,050,300 (56 per cent) in June last year.
Mr Koh further argued that since 2016, the number of errant employers on the FCF watch list has been small, at about 600, including 260 which have been taken off the list.
Also, the new FCF penalties laid down by the Manpower Ministry including “debarment for all work passes and imprisonment, fines or both” cannot be considered “light”, he said.
“Affected companies may not be able to hire Singaporeans and face a business slowdown,” he added. “Should the company cease operations, Singaporeans will also lose their jobs.”
“To sustain and enhance the employment of Singaporeans, we must keep the economy competitive, create better jobs and equip Singaporeans with the right skills to take on job opportunities,” he said.
It is noted that Mr Koh is currently a board member of TAFEP with influences over Singapore’s Fair Consideration Framework.