Manpower Minister Josephine Teo announced last Thursday (27 Aug) that the work pass requirements will be raised for foreign PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) working in Singapore (‘Josephine Teo: General Election not the driving force behind stricter foreign work pass policy‘).
Under the new rules, minimum qualifying salaries for EP and S Pass holders will be raised from $3,900 to $4,500 and from $2,400 to $2,500 respectively. For foreign PMETs in the financial sector, it will be raised to $5,000.
Companies will also have to advertise jobs on the Jobs Bank for at least 28 days, up from the current 14 days, before they can apply for a new EP or S Pass in order to recruit a foreigner. This will start from 1 Oct. The advertising rule currently applied only to EP jobs.
While asking companies to make efforts to build up a Singaporean core, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo also stressed that Singapore must remain an open and connected hub for international businesses.
“We do value the contributions of our foreign workforce because they do complement the local workforce in keeping Singapore an attractive host to investors from around the world,” she pointed out.
Drop of 14,700 foreign PMETs first 6 months
In the news release, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) added that there were 190,000 EP holders and 189,000 S Pass holders, or a total of 379,000 foreign PMETs, working in Singapore as of June 2020.
According to MOM’s website, there were 193,700 EP and 200,000 S Pass holders at the end of last year.
That means, in the first 6 months this year amidst the coronavirus pandemic, there was only a drop of 3,700 foreign EP holders and 11,000 S Pass holders, or 14,700 foreign PMETs.
In the meantime, unemployment rate for Singaporeans had risen considerably during the same period of this year.
As of Jun 2020, the unemployment rate for Singaporeans had risen to 4.0% with 79,600 Singaporeans unemployed.
Retrenched Singaporeans driving Grab
Meanwhile, many retrenched Singaporeans are being forced to drive Grab to make ends meet, usually driving long hours (‘Retrenched SG gets only 1 response from 500 job applications; Heng says to “upskill”‘).
In a media interview earlier this year, Singaporean Alan Lim, 52, told reporters that he was retrenched by StarHub two years ago. In fact, Alan had been with Starhub for 2 decades and last held the position of senior account manager, drawing $10,000 a month.
He then went for a handful of interviews but continued to be rejected by companies. He has been told that he was too old and the salary he wanted was too high — even though he was asking for only $4,000 a month, a 60 per cent cut from his pay at StarHub.
Faced with multiple rejections, Alan ended up driving Grab instead. He said, “I didn’t want to waste too much of my time. I felt that it was better for me to focus on driving Grab because that’s the only way for (older workers) like us (to earn a living) and that is the only job that is suitable.”
Even though Alan makes about $3,500 to $5,000 a month as Grab driver, he revealed that he needs to drive up to 10 hours a day. With the pandemic going on, his earnings have been affected.
Another Singaporean PMET, a 54-year-old who wanted to be known only as Mr Low has a similar experience. He was working as a heavy lift specialist at a multinational logistics firm until he was retrenched in July last year. This was the second time he was retrenched in about three years.
He has since gone back to driving Grab. He had previously driven for Uber in 2016 after he was first retrenched from his job as a regional manager for a foreign logistics company. “I was almost hired by (another logistics firm) but at the end of the day, they wanted to hire someone new, someone younger. The fact remains that (they think) a younger more energetic person will go the extra mile”, he said.
“So you may have the experience and you may have the skill sets but age still matters at the end of the day.”