Minister of Manpower Josephine Teo

During the Parliamentary debate yesterday (3 Mar), Manpower Minister Josephine Teo told Parliament that about 1,000 firms have been put on the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) Watchlist presently.

Since the list was introduced in 2016 four years ago, firms that were placed on the list have hired more than 4,400 Singaporean PMETs, she noted.

“Our objective is not just to penalise errant employers. We want them to improve,” she said.

There is, however, no mention as to how long were the Singaporeans PMETs hired and whether they are still being hired.

Under the FCF, employers that do not consider hiring Singaporeans fairly will be barred from hiring new foreign professionals or renewing existing ones for a minimum of 12 months, up to a maximum of 24 months. Employers and key personnel who make false declarations on fair consideration will also be prosecuted.

To date since the list was introduced, a total of 3,000 Employment Pass (EP) applications have been rejected or withheld by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), or withdrawn by employers, she added.

The salary criteria for hiring foreigners on an EP will also be raised. From 1 May, the minimum monthly salary for foreign professionals to qualify for an EP will go up from $3,600 to $3,900. “This increase is in line with improving wages of fresh graduates of local autonomous universities,” she pointed out.

According to the latest joint graduate employment survey published last Friday (28 Feb), the median gross monthly salary among fresh graduates in full-time permanent employment was $3,600 last year. So, the new minimum EP salary requirement of $3,900 is only about 8% higher than the median fresh graduate salary.

Ms Teo further announced that MOM will be stepping up measures to ensure fair hiring consideration in the workplace. Under the FCF, companies are required to advertise openings on the national Jobs Bank to give locals a chance to be considered first before they can submit their EP applications for foreign applicants.

This is to ensure fair hiring and guard against job openings being restricted to “closed circles of friends”, she said.

From 1 May, MOM will expand the advertising requirement to include positions paying up to $20,000 from the current $15,000. Job positions with salaries of $15,000 and above are currently exempted from the FCF job advertising requirement for hiring foreigners.

Jobs Bank a “wayang”?

Still, many netizens have commented that the Jobs Bank, supposedly set up by the government to encourage the hiring of more locals, is useless.

For example, a quick check on a forum frequented by foreign expats shows some companies are just putting up job advertisements on Jobs Bank for “procedural” purpose. They have no intention of hiring any locals since they already have a foreign candidate in mind:

From the forum thread, it appears that the company was ready to hire Amanda, a Malaysian Chinese, on EP even before it posted any job advertisements on Jobs Bank.

Amanda’s EP was said to have been approved just last Thursday (27 Feb). Perhaps Ms Teo might want to personally go check out if the job offered to Amanda by the company is being restricted to just “closed circles of friends”?

Companies caught for pre-selecting foreign job applicants and didn’t conduct any local job interviews

Together with the announcement of harsher penalties for discriminatory hiring practices in January this year, MOM named a few companies caught for flouting FCF.

One company, Ti2 Logistics Pte Ltd, was caught for making a false declaration to MOM. It submitted an EP application for a foreign job applicant for the position of business development manager. It had also advertised for the position of accounts manager on the Jobs Bank.

For the former role, it made a false declaration that it had interviewed two Singaporeans and considered candidates fairly when it had not done so. For second role, the firm also treated the job advertising requirement under the FCF as a paper exercise, posting a job description unrelated to the actual job.

In reality, it had already pre-selected an EP applicant for the business development position and had no intention to interview any Singaporean candidates. MOM charged the company with one count of making a false declaration to the Controller of Work Passes in its EP application. It has also been debarred from hiring new EP holders or renewing existing work passes for two years.

Like Ti2 Logistics, two other companies also did not interview any locals even though they had put up advertisements on Jobs Bank. Before putting up the job advertisement, Meyer Burger (Singapore) Pte Ltd had already interviewed a foreigner overseas and deemed him suitable for a process engineer post in Singapore. It then advertised the position on Jobs Bank for the purpose of applying an EP for him.

Meyer Burger did not carry out any interviews since it had already made up its mind to hire the foreign worker. The job advertisement was posted solely to make an EP application. MOM debarred the company from hiring new EP holders or renewing existing work passes for two years.

Tarantula Global Holdings Pte Ltd similarly submitted an EP application for the position of senior IT support engineer. Like Meyer Burger and Ti2 Logistics, the company had pre-selected the EP applicant, who was a former employee of an affiliated overseas company. It put up a job advertisement, but likewise did not interview any candidates other than the chosen one. The company was debarred by MOM from hiring new EP holders or renewing existing work passes for 12 months.

Another company, Nihon Premium Clinic Pte Ltd, submitted an EP application for the position of regional customer development manager. It omitted listing critical key criteria in its job advertisement like the ability to speak fluent Japanese and Mandarin, when they were actually required for the job.

As a result, none of the job applications submitted was suitable for consideration as the local job applicants did not know that fluency in Japanese and Mandarin was required. Instead, an EP applicant recommended by one of the company’s shareholders was deemed suitable after an interview.

For not giving fair consideration to Singaporean candidates, Nihon Premium Clinic was debarred from hiring new EP holders or renewing existing work passes for 12 months.

All these companies could have avoided legal troubles with MOM if they had taken the trouble to at least “wayang” a bit to interview some local candidates.

In such cases, the companies can still give the excuse that they have interviewed the locals and did not find any of them suitable. It would then be difficult for MOM to find fault with these companies.

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