Singapore on Monday announced tougher rules for recruiting foreigners for skilled jobs, in a bid to reduce its dependency on foreign workers and to ensure locals get a fair chance at being gainfully employed, according to the Ministry of Manpower.
Singapore, which for decades has been dependent on skilled and unskilled workers from abroad to drive its economy, last year had announced its intentions to scale down recruitment of foreigners, following protests from its citizens who blame rising immigration for a host of problems such as higher property prices and cost of living in the southeast Asian nation.
"Even as we remain open to foreign manpower to complement our local workforce, all firms must make an effort to consider Singaporeans fairly," Tan Chuan Jin, the acting manpower minister, said in a statement. “‘Hiring-own-kind’ and other discriminatory practices that unfairly exclude Singaporeans run against our fundamental values of fairness and meritocracy.”
According to the new rules announced by the Ministry of Manpower, from August 2014 onward companies with more than 25 employees are required to advertise vacancies for managerial and other skilled jobs on a new national jobs bank for at least 14 days before they can apply for employment passes to hire foreign workers.
This is the fourth time Singapore's government has tightened rules for recruiting foreigners since February, when it announced a new recruitment policy that focused on reducing foreign work visas. Earlier, it had placed tougher rules for recruiting foreigners for unskilled jobs and increased levies, or work-pass fees, for foreign workers.
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However, the ministry also has been urging locals to upgrade their skills to meet the requirements for available jobs and called on companies to train local staff to replace foreigners.
"Singaporeans must still prove themselves able and competitive to take on the higher jobs that they aspire to," Jin added.
The new rules known as the Fair Consideration Framework also provides for additional scrutiny and punitive actions on firms that have discriminatory human resources practices and “have a disproportionately low concentration of Singaporeans at the PME (professionals, managers and executives) level compared to others in their industry, or are not responsive toward new guidelines,” the statement said.
“It is neither possible to change mindsets overnight nor legislate the problem away. We must set expectations about what is acceptable and what is not. It requires persuasion, explanation, and leading by example. The worst employers must be taken to task,” the statement said.
A third of Singapore’s total workforce is made up of foreign workers and immigrants, and the number of immigrants is expected to rise by almost a third to nearly 7 million by 2030. Singapore's unemployment rate was under 2 percent in 2012, according to the Ministry of Manpower.