In the Ministerial Statement issued over India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) yesterday (6 Jul), Manpower Minister Tan See Leng only revealed the number of intra-corporate transferees (ICTs) from India last year, which was a COVID-19 year.
In fact, starting last year, the Manpower Ministry (MOM) has been requiring all new and existing Work Pass holders, including dependants, to obtain MOM’s approval before they commence their journey to Singapore due to COVID-19.
According to Dr Tan, there were 4,200 ICTs working in Singapore last year, of which 500 were brought in from India.
ICTs are overseas employees at an MNC transferred to their Singapore’s office to work. Companies that want to fill a role with an ICT are exempted from the Fair Consideration Framework requirement that requires firms to advertise jobs on the National Jobs Bank.
But they must meet the prevailing work pass criteria before they are allowed to work here, Dr Tan said. “None of our FTAs, including the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca), gives intra-corporate transferees unfettered access to our labour market,” he added.
“If they have brought in dependants, the dependants do not have automatic rights to work here. They can only do so if they qualify for a work pass on their own merits,” he said.
Furthermore, Dr Tan also forgot to add that the rule was changed only recently several months ago. ICTs now can no longer bring their family members with them via dependant’s passes or long-term visit passes, something which was permitted all along. And in the past, dependants were allowed to work in Singapore.
According to the Population White Paper, around 30,000 Permanent Residents and 20,000 new citizens are granted each year on average for the past couple of years. It is unknown how many of these Work Pass holders were converted and whether they are included in the figures provided by the Minister.
Dr Tan who was recently elected in Parliament last year, argued, “The number of intra-corporate transferees coming in under our FTAs, and in particular Ceca, is very small relative to our total number of EPs.”
Foreign workers now account for about a third of Singapore’s workforce.
“Singaporeans are pragmatic, and understand that we need to remain open to global talent. However, they also face real challenges,” he added.
He acknowledged that some workplaces have become more concentrated with a single nationality, and that there may be discrimination against local job seekers and workers.
Dr Tan said, “I am not suggesting that all of our approaches are perfect… We will continue to refine them in the light of experience, always with a focused view to having a system that can deliver good jobs, livelihoods and a thriving economy for Singaporeans.”