The Singapore Manpower Ministry has been tightening the criteria for approval of employment pass when companies intend to hire foreign professionals in Singapore. Employers who persist in hiring them for no good reason and fail to have concrete plans to nurture their Singaporean staff will find it harder to operate and expand in Singapore.

Since 2018, the Singapore Ministry of Manpower has been more demanding before giving the nod for a Singapore Employment Pass (EP) work visa. The criteria for approval has been changed several times to include such factors as the proportion of foreigners in a company and whether it tried to recruit Singaporeans for the job. The Ministry of Manpower examines the extent of the company’s contribution to the economy and society when evaluating all employment pass applications. Those deemed weak in these areas will face difficulties in renewing the employment pass of existing foreigners and getting new ones for fresh hires. Each foreigner’s background, such as academic qualifications, work experience and salaries are also carefully assessed in each Employment Pass applications.

Many companies have been put on a watch list for having a weak Singaporean core and displaying a weak commitment to recruiting locals. If a company is put on watch list, they will not be able to hire any foreigners for a certain period of time until they have improved their hiring practices. If a company is put on the watch list, this would definitely affect their business operation in Singapore.

The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) body has also been given bigger role to investigate and recommend to the ministry of manpower as to which employers should be put on a black- sheep watch list.

With effect from 1 July 2018, employers with 10 or more employees are required to advertise their job vacancies at the government administered job portal known as jobsbank or careerfuture. This figure is down from a less stringent, 20 employees previously. The advertisement must be for a period of 2 weeks and if there is no suitably qualified local applicants, only then an application for employment pass for foreign candidates can commenced. More details can be found at this link

One of the Singapore government’s priority in the coming years will be to build a strong Singaporean core in all employment sectors in Singapore. Senior management and human resource managers of new and existing companies in Singapore should take note of the above policy directions and take them into account as part of their manpower planning and strategies going forward.

Employment Pass