Singapore is the talent hub of Asia. Its policy on foreign hires is based on attracting the best talent for the right job. More recently, Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has placed restrictions on employment pass (EP) applications to promote the hiring of local talent. However, a calibrated application based on a careful consideration of the company's profile, its talent needs, and the employee's qualifications will increase the chances for success.
Singapore's policy on foreign hires
Singapore's policy on foreign hires is based on assessing whether the foreign talent's contributions will be complementary to the needs of Singapore's economy or in competition with what the local talent pool has to offer. An application is more likely to succeed if it is made by a company operating in a business sector that is significant or growing in significance to Singapore's economy.
Based on the principle of complementarity and local talent mix, any application should consider the following factors:
Skills and qualifications
The applicant's skills should be relevant to the potential employee's job scope. Skills that are not commonly available locally will have a greater chance of success. Applicants with a degree from a recognised university which are backed up by professional qualifications that can prove specialist skills will be prioritised. Finally, the job title of the employee should accurately reflect his/her job scope.
Salary and experience
The potential employee should possess relevant working experience. Employees who lack recognised qualifications should have at least 5 years of work experience. The salary cap for recent graduates should not be below S$3,300. When determining the salary, the potential employee's last drawn salary and current market standards should be considered.
It can be advantageous if the company is operating within a niche or important business sector. Also, as mentioned above, the reputation of the company matters. If the employee is related to a well-established company or brand, this may improve the chances for a successful application. Applications submitted by non-eligible businesses (such as operating coffee shops or karaoke lounges) will be rejected.
Local talent mix and business spending
Companies that have staff comprised of a balanced mix between local and foreign talent have an added advantage. A small number of locals within the company may result in the application being rejected. Having a significant number of local contracts and using local vendors, along with a significant office space, may improve the chances for a successful application.
Paid-up capital should be reflective of the company's financial projection. Setting it too low may lead to questions about the company's sustainability and its ability to support its staff and business expenses.
Companies that wish to hire employment pass holders should first advertise the relevant position in the Singapore Workforce Development Agency's JobsBank. The advertisement has to be available for at least two weeks and has to consider Singaporean citizens for the position.1 However, companies with less than 25 employees, jobs that pay more than $12,000 per month, intra-corporate transferees, and short-term positions are exempted from this requirement.2
Fair Consideration Framework (FCF)
The FCF gives priority to Singapore citizens in the hiring process. In addition to the JobsBank requirements already in effect, starting October 1, 2015, employers have to comply with new rules. Job advertisements now have to include published salary ranges. Also, when applying for an EP, an employer has to provide the number of applications submitted by Singaporeans, information on whether they were interviewed for the position, and the current share of Singapore citizens in the company's top management positions.3
Fair employee compensation
The employee's salary should be commensurate with the employee's qualifications and experience. As mentioned above, the amount of salary should be proportional to both the local market standard and the employee's last drawn salary. The salary should not be lower than what would be paid to local talent of similar qualification applying for the same position.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Satish Bakhda is the Chief Operating Officer at Rikvin. He brings with him over 15 years of experience in the corporate services industry and is a regular speaker at marketing events around the world. He is also a consultant on matters relating to incorporation, relocation, accounting and taxation in Singapore.