In a Facebook posting on Wednesday (20 Jan), Manpower Minister Josephine Teo made a promise in the new year that the foremost priority of the government is to “keep Singaporeans in jobs and help displaced Singaporeans get back to work”.
“To achieve this, we are providing stronger support for employers to develop their Singaporean core,” she said.
She added while the government has provided a range of support to help employers develop their Singaporean core, the employers too must play their part in ensuring that they hire fairly on the basis of merit.
She explained, “This means that when a job is advertised, the best candidate should be considered. Attributes which are not relevant to the job such as nationality, gender, age, race, and disability should not be considerations.”
“Jobs should also not be kept to a ‘closed circle of friends’. Ultimately, employers should keep to the spirit, not just the letter, of the Fair Consideration Framework and the Tripartite Guidelines for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices.”
Meanwhile, the Singapore Business Federation and the Trade Associations and Chambers Alliance have come together to pledge their support for fair hiring and progressive employment practices.
In response, Ms Teo commented, “These progressive employment practices also makes business sense. When businesses hire fairly and based on merit, they will have access to the widest pool of candidates that can help them succeed.”
Company found guilty of pre-selecting British national for job in Singapore
While it’s admirable that business federation, trade associations and business chambers have pledged their support to hire fairly so as to build a Singaporean core in their companies, the reality of the situation may be quite different. Cases of job discrimination against Singaporeans would still crop up every now and then.
For example, last Oct, a finance and insurance company was found guilty of pre-selecting a foreigner for a job in Singapore, despite advertising in the national Jobs Bank (‘Firm found guilty of pre-selecting foreigner for job gets only 6 mths suspension of work pass privileges‘).
The company was caught pre-selecting the foreigner for a managerial role at its Singapore office, after a whisleblower, the firm’s human resource manager, filed a complaint with TAFEP against the company.
TAFEP set up in 2006 by the tripartite partners—Ministry of Manpower, National Trades Union Congress, and Singapore National Employers Federation—is responsible of overseeing the adoption of fair and responsible employment practices in Singapore.
It was found that while the company posted a job advertisement on the national Jobs Bank for the minimum period of 14 days as stipulated under the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF), the company went on to sign the employment contract with the pre-selected foreign applicant even before the job advertisement on the Jobs Bank had expired.
Furthermore, it was found that the work experience and educational qualifications of the pre-selected foreigner, a British national based at the company’s London office, also did not meet the advertised requirements.
The advertisement received more than 60 applications, with 28 fulfilling the advertised requirements, but none of the applicants were invited for interviews.
The case was subsequently referred to MOM. MOM then decided to suspend the work pass privileges of the offending firm for only 6 months – a slap on the wrist.
MOM short of any measures to police Jobs Bank
Since 1 August 2014, employers who wish to apply for a new Employment Pass for a foreigner will have to first advertise the job vacancy on the Jobs Bank and consider Singaporeans fairly under the advertising requirement under the FCF.
However, there does not seem to be any strong desire by MOM to close or to ensure this loophole is not exploited.
In fact, this is exemplified in replies by former-Minister of Manpower Tan Chuan Jin to questions in relation to the Jobs Bank in Parliament on 8 September 2014.
MP for Aljunied, Gerald Giam Yean Song who was a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) then, had asked whether MOM tracks what proportion of the Jobs Bank posts are eventually secured by Singaporeans. if not, whether there are plans to measure and publish such data by requiring employers to disclose the outcome of their job postings; and whether such data can be cross-referenced with data from Employment Pass and S-Pass application processes to yield patterns and causes for PMET jobs not going to Singaporeans.
In response, Mr Tan said that the Jobs Bank and the FCF was not set up to guarantee local job seekers employment all the time.
“This will continue to be determined on the basis of merit, and to the best applicant for the job. There can be various reasons why an employer may not end up hiring the Singaporean candidate after considering applications fairly. For example, in the IT sector, there could be jobs that require technical skills or domain knowledge of legacy programming languages, which IT firms use in supporting legacy IT systems of many companies that our local workforce may not possess in sufficient numbers. Likewise, Singaporean job seekers have their reasons for not accepting job offers – for example – if employers are unable to meet their expectations in terms of job scope and other personal considerations.” said Mr Tan.
He added, “Even when Singaporeans apply for a job that they see on the Jobs Bank, we cannot directly track this. For example, job seekers may apply through firms’ in-house HR portals. Therefore, data on the number of Singaporeans who were placed in a job vacancy which was advertised on the Jobs Bank would not be a representative or accurate indicator of how well Singaporeans are doing in the labour market in general.”
MP for West Coast GRC, Ms Foo Mee Har had also asked Mr Tan, how many and percentage of Singaporeans have applied for jobs posted on the Jobs Bank portal.
However, he did not answer straight to Ms Foo’s questions but merely mentioned the number of Singaporeans who have signed up with the Jobs Bank and how many employers have posted job vacancies.
Other than non tracking of data, non Singaporeans are allowed to file applications at the Job Bank.
TOC wrote to MOM in 13 June 2016 and asked why does Jobs Bank allows non-Singaporeans to partake as applicants for the Jobs Bank scheme, given that its goal is to strengthen the Singaporean core in the workforce.
Despite replying that the ministry will give TOC an answer, MOM has yet to provide any response to date.