Speaking in Parliament on Wed (24 Feb), Member of Parliament for Pioneer SMC, Patrick Tay said there must be support from Government and employers to ensure that Singaporean PMETs (professional, manager, executive and technician) are not discriminated at workplaces and have fair access of progression opportunities.
He added that he has heard of employers who deliberately “downgraded” foreign Employment Pass (EP) holders to S Pass holders in order to comply with the new foreign employment policy changes instituted last year, although these workers were performing essentially the same job functions.
After the General Election last year when the People’s Action Party (PAP) lost 2 GRCs to Workers’ Party (WP) and garnered a disappointing 61.2% of valid votes, the ruling PAP made announcements to change some of the hiring criteria for foreign PMETs.
Starting from 1 Sep last year, the minimum qualifying salary for foreign EP holders was raised to $4,500 for new applications.
From 1 Dec last year, the minimum qualifying salary for foreign EP candidates in the financial sector was further raised to $5,000 for new applications. The qualifying salaries for older and more experienced foreign candidates in their 40s were also raised correspondingly and remain around double the minimum qualifying salary.
This new salary criteria will apply to those foreigners renewing their EPs if their passes are expiring from 1 May this year onward.
In the case of foreign S Pass holders, the minimum qualifying salary was also raised to $2,500 for new applications starting 1 Oct last year. The new salary criteria will also apply to those renewing their S Passes if their passes expire from 1 May this year and beyond.
What MP Tay is saying is that some companies who did not want to raise their current foreign EP holders’ salaries to the new $4,500 or $5,000 for finance sector, they resorted to “downgrade” their foreign EP holders to S Pass holders instead, since the qualifying salary of S Pass holders is much lower at $2,500.
This is despite the foreign employees are still performing the same job functions as before.
MP Tay said, “We therefore need to look at ways to further strengthen the S Pass criteria and conditions to prevent such a back-door approach… We need continued stricter enforcement against errant companies.”
If what MP Tay has heard in the market is true, it also begs the question why MOM has approved an EP for the foreign PMET in the first place, since an S Pass will have already suffice for those “downgraded” cases.
EP is a work pass for highly skilled foreign professionals while the S Pass is for mid-skilled ones. This means MOM has been issuing EP to those mid-skilled foreign professionals erroneously all along for those “downgraded” cases.