In a media interview on Wed (27 May), Trade and Development Minister Chan Chun Sing told the media that Singapore has to step up its efforts to find foreign PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) who would best complement local talents so as to compete in the world market.
“Because if they don’t complement Singapore, then they might end up competing against Singapore,” he added.
Even as the world is buffeted by the rough waves of protectionist sentiments and travel restrictions, Singapore needs to remain an “open and safe harbour” for higher-skilled foreign PMETs, he said.
In a separate media interview, DPM Heng Swee Keat also said that the key issue is that Singapore’s domestic labour force is insufficient and will decline as the population ages.
Govt continues to issue work pass for foreign PMETs
Indeed, the Singapore government continues to “find foreign PMETs” even amidst the current COVID-19 crisis.
A check on a popular online expat forum site shows that the Manpower Ministry (MOM) continues to issue work passes for foreign PMETs to work in Singapore, even as more Singaporeans are struggling to find jobs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic (‘Expats share how MOM continues to issue work pass for foreign PMETs to work in SG amidst COVID-19 crisis‘).
Apparently, many of the foreign PMETs were granted a work pass after aggressively putting up appeals by the recruiting companies, according to discussions among the foreign expats at the online forum.
It’s not known how those foreign PMETs who could obtain a work pass to work here, exactly “complement” Singaporeans like what Chan said, when Singaporeans themselves are out of jobs.
At the end of last year, the number of foreign PMETs (Employment Pass and S Pass holders) hit almost 400K at 393,700.
Singaporean woman retrenched by MNC in favour of “foreign talent”
In some cases, the foreign PMET was recruited not to “complement” but to replace a Singaporean staff.
In Feb this year, the TodayOnline reported a case of a Singaporean woman working at an international financial firm being unfairly “replaced” by a foreign PMET from another country.
For 40-year-old Laura (not her real name), educational qualifications or a lack of relevant skills had nothing to do with her losing her job.
The Singaporean told the reporter that she was let go from her job at an international finance firm. In an effort to cut costs, the company had combined two roles and chose to replace her with a foreign employee who was brought over from another branch in the region.
When Laura asked her boss why she was not retained, he told her that he had evaluated both their performances and felt the foreign employee was a better fit for the company. But Laura, who had been with the company as a financial planner for six years, was not convinced.
She said, “This is not a skill set issue. I agree that some local workers may need to do some reskilling but that is not the case for me.”
Feeling that she had been unfairly discriminated by the company, she later filed a complaint against the company to MOM.
It’s not known if MOM later issued any work pass to enable the foreign PMET identified by the company to replace Laura.