Yesterday (5 Aug), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced that another 47 companies with suspected discriminatory hiring practices have been placed on its Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) watchlist.
This is on top of the 1,000 firms in the watchlist as announced by Manpower Minister Josephine Teo in Parliament earlier this year – an increase of about 400 more firms than what was on the watchlist a year ago.
Ms Teo previously said in Parliament, “Our objective is not just to penalise errant employers. We want them to improve. This is why we reached out to another 350 employers whose workforce profiles give us cause for concern, so that they take additional steps to strengthen local hiring. But it also means that having served notice to these employers, MOM will not hesitate to put them on the FCF watchlist if their workforce profiles deteriorate.”
The latest announcement came after the recent General Election which the ruling PAP government lost another GRC and performed worse than it anticipated.
Of the 47 companies, 30 (64 per cent) are in the financial and professional services sectors. They include banks, fund management firms, management consulting companies, as well as firms that provide project management and engineering services.
MOM said that all 30 of the financial and professional services employers have a “high concentration of PMETs from single nationalities”.
In one financial institution in the fund management industry, almost three-quarters of their PMETs are of the same nationality and in another bank, almost two-thirds of the PMETs are also of the same nationality, MOM revealed.
“We will subject their hiring to closer scrutiny to ensure that there is no nationality bias against locals, which is unacceptable and not in line with fair, merit-based hiring,” said MOM.
MOM added that those who are recalcitrant or uncooperative will have their work pass privileges curtailed. MOM did not name the companies or the nationalities involved.
MOM also said that another 240 firms are under investigation for possible pre-selection of foreigners or not adhering to the spirit of the job advertising requirement under FCF.
In their defence, some of the these firms accused of engaging in discriminatory hiring practices said that Singaporeans lacked the “global exposure” necessary to function effectively across the multiple countries that they operate in.
Still, MOM said that employers who do not give locals a fair chance in hiring and promotion will face scrutiny and stiff penalties if found to have unfair hiring practices.
“During these challenging times, we will be extra vigilant against unfair hiring, to ensure that local jobseekers are treated fairly.”
MOM now urged members of the public to report specific instances of discriminatory behaviour. It assures that the identity of whistleblowers will be kept confidential.
Discriminatory hiring practices ongoing for awhile
On CNA Facebook page, netizens were already speculating that the mentioned “same nationality” was referring to Indian nationals, especially those working in the financial and professional services sectors:
The discriminatory practices by foreign hiring managers have been ongoing for awhile. Many Singaporeans have been making regular complaints to MOM. It’s only in recent times that the PAP government has stepped up enforcement, especially now that the ruling party has just lost 2 GRCs in the recent general election.
For example, as far back as 2013, Singaporeans working in the financial industry were already complaining about discriminatory hiring practices. At the time, DPM Tharman and then Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin had to call up some banks in Singapore to ask them to stop the practice of “hiring their own kinds”. This was revealed in Parliament by Minister Tan in 2013.
Minister Tan did not name the banks nor the nationalities of the hiring managers but many netizens have pointed that DPM Tharman and Mr Tan must have spoken to some of these foreign banks which were dominated by Indian nationals.
After CECA was signed with India in 2005, many Indian nationals began to flood into the Singapore job market competing with Singaporean PMETs for jobs (‘Chan didn’t disclose that there is no economic needs test or quotas on agreed services under CECA‘). And the worst is they would tend to practise “hiring their own kinds” as mentioned by Minister Tan in 2013.
Still, some netizens are not that convinced about the sincerity of the government in its latest actions to stop the discriminatory hiring practices. Facebook user Panda Tse summed up the feelings of many of such netizens, “They (government) only wayang to wake up a little when votes dropped below 65%.”