On Tue (6 Jul), Manpower Minister Tan See Leng told Parliament in his Ministerial Statement on the India–Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), that about 25 percent of the 177,100 employment pass (EP) holders in Singapore were Indian nationals.
Dr Tan did not disclose the proportion for S Pass holders.
As of Dec last year, there were 177,100 EP and 174,000 S Pass holders. That is to say there were 351,100 foreign PMETs in total working in Singapore last year.
An EP requires the candidate to be paid a minimum salary of $4,500 in order to qualify for the work pass meant for managerial, executive or specialised jobs. A S Pass on the other hand — for mid-skilled foreign employees, requires the candidate to be paid a minimum salary in order to qualify.
Revealing the proportion only for EP holders, Tan said, “The proportion of EP holders from India has increased from about one seventh (14%) in 2005 to about a quarter (25%) in 2020.”
“Now, is this the result of more favourable treatment for Indian EP holders due to CECA? The answer is no,” he added.
He stressed that there is no differentiation based on nationality: all work pass holders in Singapore have to meet the same criteria before they are allowed to enter the local labour market. “Rather, these numbers reflect trends in the global demand and supply of tech talent.”
He said that Singapore does not publish detailed statistics on its foreign workforce, especially by nationality. However, the government has decided to reveal some figures in order to allay the damage from “misconceptions”.
And indeed, some figures were revealed but not the answers that Mr Leong Mun Wai, Non-Constituency Member of Parliament from Progress Singapore Party, was looking for.
Mr Leong had asked about the number of nationals from countries under Singapore’s Free Trade Agreements—namely China, India, US, and Australia—who have entered and worked in Singapore using Intra-Corporate Transferee (ICT) visas, professional visas, and dependent passes for each year from 2005 until last year.
However, Dr Tan barely answered the questions filed.
The larger increase in Indian EP holders compared with other nationalities, said Dr Tan, is driven by rapid growth in the digital economy and finance, as every sector seeks tech talent in order to be digitally enabled, Tan explained.
“We don’t have enough locals to fill the jobs available. In the infocomm sector alone today, 6,000 jobs currently remain unfilled,” said Tan.
However, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung did acknowledge with regard to the concentration of foreign nationals from a certain nationality working at Changi Business Park.
“Some may feel that we have lost a part of Singapore. Members of the House have raised this concern. We are taking this seriously and studying what we can do to lessen the problem,” Ong said.
In any case, speaking of “tech talent”, HackerRank, a global technology hiring platform for assessing IT developer skills, conducted a study some time ago to see which country has the best IT programmers and developers.
As part of the study, HackerRank ranked more than 1.5 million IT developers who took part in solving challenging coding problems on its site. The ranking was based on factors such as accuracy and speed.
It found that despite India had one of the most number of competitors on HackerRank, they were ranked at a lowly 31st position in terms of talent. Meanwhile, Singapore was ranked 13th in the world.