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Singapore seeks quality labour in new foreign worker rules

Bloomberg August 28 | Updated on August 28, 2020

A cyclist rides on Esplanade bridge as buildings stand in the Central Business District in Singapore   -  Bloomberg

Raises minimum salaries for employment and S-pass holders, making it tougher for firms to hire foreigners over Singaporean applicants

Singapore will remain open and connected as a financial hub even as it tightens restrictions on foreign workers to protect local jobs amid the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, Trade & Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said.

New rules to limit foreign worker visas won’t affect Singapore’s status as a business hub, Chan said Friday in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Haslinda Amin. The city-state is trying to attract higher-skilled workers and will remain open to foreign talent, he said.

“We are making a move toward quality rather than quantity,” he said. “We really want to create more space for people at the very top, but for those jobs that can be done by Singaporeans, it will not require that many foreigners within the country.”

Singapore on Thursday announced an increase in the minimum salaries for employment and S-pass holders, which could make it tougher for firms to hire foreigners over Singaporean applicants. Employment pass holders must now earn S$4,500 ($3,293) a month, up from S$3,900, and S-pass holders must meet a S$2,500 threshold instead of S$2,400.

Singapore’s business community has been under pressure to maintain an appropriate balance of local and foreign workers. Monetary Authority of Singapore Managing Director Ravi Menon said last week the MAS would intensify its engagement with financial firms on their hiring practices in order to grow the Singaporean core.

Chan said officials are quietly confident in the city-state’s economic recovery through year-end, with fiscal stimulus helping to support domestic consumption and enable businesses and workers to shift to new industries. Still, much of the outlook will depend on external demand, he said.

“We are quite happy with the progress that we have made so far,” Chan said. “At the same time, we can’t replace external demand with domestic stimulus.”

Even with the economy expected to improve from the record 13.2 per cent year-on-year contraction in the second quarter, officials have warned that retrenchments and business closures could continue to rise. The jobless rate hit its highest level in the second quarter since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago.

Published on August 28, 2020

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