It was reported in the media today (11 May) that the number of foreign professionals on Employment Pass (EP) actually increased during the first 3 months of this year amidst the unfolding of the COVID-19 crisis.
From Jan to Mar, the number of foreign EP holders increased from 193,700 to 193,800. The first COVID-19 case in Singapore was confirmed on 23 Jan with Singapore currently having the highest number of confirmed cases in Southeast Asia.
However, the number of foreign S Pass (SP) holders dropped from 200,000 to 194,900 while that of Work Permit (WP) holders (excluding maids and construction workers) decreased from 443,900 to 433,000.
EP allows foreign professionals, managers and executives to work in Singapore. Candidates need to earn at least $3,600 a month and have acceptable qualifications. On the other hand, SP allows mid-level skilled foreigners to work here. Candidates need to earn at least $2,400 a month and have the relevant qualifications and work experience.
A Filipino lamented to the media that his SP was cancelled on 15 Apr, two days after his company, a legal solutions firm, told staff it had filed for liquidation. With his SP cancelled, he must leave Singapore in 30 days unless he can find a new job.
“We were ready for cost cutting, but this was a shock. Even if they had cut my pay by $300, at least I would still have a job,” the Filipino said. “It’s not possible to find a job in the middle of the circuit breaker.”
Unemployment rate among Singaporeans rises in 1Q
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for citizens rose in the first quarter this year, from 3.3% to 3.5%, the highest in 10 years. But Manpower Ministry said unemployment rates remain lower than the highs seen during SARS and the Global Financial Crisis.
One of the citizens who was made unemployed during this period was Mr Tan. He was retrenched from his role as a manager at a business tourism company in Mar. He told the media that he was with the company for five-and-a-half years, taking home about $5,000 a month.
It was painful for him and his morale has taken a hit. He revealed that besides two teenage sons to take care of, he has his 89-year-old mum’s kidney dialysis treatment to pay for, as well as two domestic helpers – one to take care of his 88-year-old dad, who has prostate cancer and dementia.
“No one knows when this virus will be gone,” Mr Tan said, adding that he now wonders how long it will take to find another job with a decent salary, given the heavy burden he has to bear to support his family.
Even if Mr Tan chose to drive Grab now, it would be an uphill task for him to earn the same $5,000 a month income again.