Tightening of Work Pass Requirements
The Government’s criteria for approving work passes have been regularly updated to enable businesses to grow as well as to support employment opportunities for locals. Since the most recent round of adjustments announced in Budget 2020, the Government has been closely monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global and domestic economic conditions, to assess if further updates are necessary.
2 While most sectors of the economy have re-opened, resumption of activities has been uneven and will remain so in the next few years. There is now more slack in the job market. However, even as some sectors have shrunk headcounts, others face shortages for skilled manpower that are critical for recovery and growth.
3 Given the weakness in the job market and uncertain growth outlook, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will update the Employment Pass (EP) and S Pass criteria to suit prevailing conditions. These changes will complement the extension of the Jobs Support Scheme and the introduction of the Jobs Growth Incentive which were announced earlier. Taken together, the Government is providing a strong package of support to businesses that are in a position to retain or expand local employment, as well as comprehensive measures to help local jobseekers secure meaningful work.
Tighten Salary Requirements for EP
4 All EP applicants must meet qualifications and salary criteria. Regular revisions to the salary criteria in recent years have slowed the growth of EP holders considerably even as the economy expanded, from an average of 13,000 annually in the first half of the last decade to less than 3,000 annually in the second half.
5 The minimum qualifying salary for EP was raised to $3,900 from 1 May 2020. From 1 September 2020, the salary requirement will be raised further to $4,500 for all new applicants. The qualifying salaries for older and more experienced EP candidates in their 40s will be raised correspondingly and will remain around double the minimum qualifying salary for the youngest applicants. For renewal applicants, these new salary criteria will come into effect from 1 May 2021.
Higher Salary Requirements in Financial Services sector
6 We will for the first time set higher qualifying salaries for a specific sector. Salaries in the Financial Services sector have been consistently higher than in other sectors. The sector also continues to hire and has been attracting strong interest from local jobseekers with good qualifications.
7 The new salary criteria for EPs that take effect from 1 September 2020 will equally apply to the Financial Services sector. However, from 1 December 2020, the minimum qualifying salary for EPs in the Financial Services sector will be further raised to $5,000 for new applicants. Similarly, the qualifying salaries for older and more experienced EP candidates in the Financial Services sector will be raised, with those in their 40s needing to meet around double the minimum qualifying salary for the youngest applicants. For renewal applicants, these new salary criteria will come into effect from 1 May 2021.
8 These changes will complement MAS’ efforts to encourage and support financial institutions in developing a strong local pipeline of talent
S Pass Salary Requirements also raised, no changes to levies and quota
9 All S Pass applicants must also meet qualifications and salary criteria. In addition, their employers meet quota requirements and incur levies. Through regular updates to the S Pass framework in recent years, the growth of S Pass holders has slowed, from an average of 17,500 annually in the first half of the last decade to less than 6,000 annually in the second half.
10 The S Pass minimum qualifying salary was raised from $2,200 to $2,300 from 1 January 2019 and to $2,400 from 1 January 2020. The S Pass minimum qualifying salary will be further raised from $2,400 to $2,500, with qualifying salaries for older and more experienced S Pass candidates revised accordingly. The changes to S Pass qualifying salaries will apply to new applicants from 1 October 2020, and to renewal applicants from 1 May 2021.
11 There will be no further changes to levies and quotas in this round of adjustments. The previously announced reductions in the S Pass sub-Dependency Ratio Ceiling (sub-DRC) for the Services, Construction, Marine Shipyard and Process sectors will proceed as planned.
Additional Considerations for EP and S Pass Applications
12 We continue to welcome businesses to grow, expand their presence in Singapore and create good jobs for our people. Employers that need to augment their local PMET workforce with additional EP or S Pass applicants should strive continuously to build up and retain a strong Singaporean core.
13 In evaluating EP and S Pass applications, we therefore take into account whether the employer has (i) kept up support of local PMETs in their employment and (ii) been responsive to government efforts to help them recruit and train more Singaporean PMETs. Conversely, we also take into account whether the employer has discriminated against qualified Singaporeans. This has always been government policy. We are giving these considerations additional emphasis now, given the uncertain economic times, to remind all employers to play their part in building up their Singaporean workforce, and help sustain public support for a business-friendly work pass policy.
Fair Consideration Framework (FCF)
14 Employers are expected to take fair hiring seriously and give due consideration to local job applicants regardless of their age, gender and ethnicity. Discrimination against local job applications in favour of foreign applicants is especially unacceptable. Employers who practise discriminatory hiring in any form will have their work pass privileges cut back and may also face prosecution.
15 Before submitting EP applications, employers must have fairly considered all candidates. The FCF requires employers to first advertise jobs on MyCareersFuture.sg (MCF) to make these positions known to local jobseekers. They should also be fair in their selection process and properly document the reasons for choosing a candidate over others. MOM has regularly taken employers to task for poor practices like pre-selecting a foreign candidate and disregarding qualified local candidates, and will continue to do so. This year alone, 90 employers have had their work pass privileges suspended because of FCF infringements.
16 We will be taking two further steps:
- Extend the FCF Job Advertising Requirement to S Pass Applications
We will extend the FCF job advertising requirement to S Pass applications submitted from 1 October 2020. This will promote greater awareness of vacancies in mid-skilled jobs among local jobseekers, and also require employers to make greater efforts to consider local candidates.
- Minimum FCF Job Advertising Duration for EP and S Pass Applications will be Doubled to 28 Days
To give local jobseekers more time to respond to job openings and for employers to seriously evaluate their applications, the minimum FCF job advertising duration for EP and S Pass applications will be doubled from 14 days to 28 days. This change will be implemented for new EP and S Pass applications from 1 October 2020.
Need to Avoid Overconcentration of EP and S Pass Employees
17 Besides meeting FCF requirements, employers whose PMET workforce profiles suggest a bias against locals will be put on a Watchlist. Their EP and S Pass applications will be subject to greater scrutiny. Since 2016, more than 1,200 employers have been scrutinised under the FCF. In all, 3,200 EP applications have been rejected or withheld by MOM, or withdrawn by employers. Over the same time period, employers on the FCF Watchlist have hired more than 4,800 Singaporean PMETs.
18 We will engage an expanded group of employers to review their hiring practices, before they are placed on the Watchlist. This expanded group will include firms whose Singaporean core has been weakening or whose EP and S Pass workforce are overly concentrated from a single source.
19 Singapore will remain an open and connected hub for international businesses. We encourage businesses to grow, expand their presence in Singapore and create good job opportunities for our people. We value the contributions of our foreign workforce as they complement the local workforce in keeping Singapore an attractive host to investors from around the world.
20 These updates to our EP and S Pass criteria are meant to keep them responsive and current. We will continue to provide businesses strong support for growing and strengthening the Singaporean core, complemented by a diverse foreign workforce.