Beginning from next Monday (2 March), Chinese work pass holders in services and manufacturing sectors will be permitted to move between jobs within their sectors, even while they are in Singapore.
According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Tuesday (26 Feb), the objective of the temporary measure is to grant more flexibility for firms when dealing with labour challenges in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak. The measure will last for six months.
Chinese work pass holders in services and manufacturing sectors cannot move between jobs while they are in Singapore, which suggests that companies can only hire them only after they have left the country.
The measure was announced by Josephine Teo, who is Manpower Minister, as she was paying a visit to Wong Fong Engineering Works in Joo Koon on Tuesday. Under the new measure, firms with surplus workers will be matched to firms which are facing a shortage, and the transfer of worker will take place upon the agreement of both sides, Ms Teo added.
She remarked that “I think this will plug a gap, and we hope that this is also a practical, tangible way in which we can help businesses to manage the current situation.”
MOM stated that with the new scheme in place, firms can save costs on repatriating their workers, in addition to searching and recruiting workers.
The scheme is inspired by the existing scheme that is in place in the marine, construction and process sectors, which is also implemented with the partnership of the Singapore Business Federation (SBF).
Companies can contact SBF at [email protected] sbf.org.sg if they are interested in transferring or hiring Chinese work pass holders. For the first month, the service is free and SBF may charge firms a nominal fee after one month. The nominal fee will be announced later. Added to this, application charge of S$35 alongside the prevailing work permit rules must be honoured.
Following the more stringent rules on works returning from China, the firms have been calling for more flexibility on foreign workers, which has led to this new scheme.
Workers who have just returned from China will need to obtain MOM’s approvals before they can enter the country as per the procedure dictated by these restrictions. Workers will also need to quarantine themselves for 14 days at home after returning.
On Friday (14 Feb), Teo Siong Seng, the SBF chairman recommended that the government could permit foreign workers already working in Singapore, particularly workers from China, to switch employers without returning to their own countries between contracts or even permitting firms to hire in more workers from other non-traditional country sources such as Myanmar.
“(The new measure) will help in the overall management of the business. But of course it will take some time to actually bring these workers up to speed,” Jack Wong, the Chief Financial Officer of Wong Fong noted and that 13 of his 40 employees from China have not yet returned.
Most of the 30,000 work pass holders from China still have not yet returned to the country, Ms Teo pointed out during her visit.
On Monday (24 Feb), MOM stated that it rejected around 500 applications every day from work pass holders who had recently visited China and also approved around 220 work pass holders.