In its addendum to the President's address 2020, Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM) noted that further adjustments to the country's foreign workforce policies will be made to reflect the changed conditions in the employment market caused by COVID-19. This includes raising the salary criteria for Employment Passes (EP) and S Passes.
According to the addendum, Singapore's foreign workforce policies have been designed to support economic growth, so as to create good jobs for Singaporeans. Regular calibrations are made to enable firms to access the manpower they need while ensuring a strong Singaporean core.
As such, Singapore has among the highest proportion of locals in the workforce employed in professional, managerial, executive and technician (PMET) jobs - nearly six in 10 locals in the country's workforce today are employed in PMET jobs. A strong Singaporean core has also been created, with nearly seven locals employed in PMET roles, for every one EP holder.
However, the economic disruption brought about by COVID-19 has created more slack in the labour market. Hence the need to make further adjustments to the foreign workforce policies, including raising the salary criteria for EP and S Passes, to reflect the changed conditions.
The MOM noted: "Even as we stay open to the world to accelerate our recovery, the crisis makes it all the more important that employers give fair treatment to Singaporeans. They should also seek to achieve greater diversity within their EP and S Pass workforce where practical.
"We will ensure that employers uphold both the letter and spirit of the Fair Consideration Framework. We will closely examine retrenchment exercises to ensure they are carried out fairly."
The ministry added that businesses that bring in skills in short supply or new networks of opportunity for Singapore will always remain welcome. At the same time, the MOM will require businesses to invest more effort to develop and strengthen their Singaporean core.
In a Facebook post, NTUC Assistant Secretary-General Patrick Tay said: "Although the EP salary minimum was just raised in May 2020, I am heartened that MOM is reviewing the qualifying salaries of both Employment Pass and S pass holders to level the playing field for our Singaporean PMEs. I had last spoken on the need to review the salary ceiling for Employment Pass applicants in March this year, during the Committee of Supply Debate.
"These updates, together with the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF), Fair Retrenchment Framework (to be incorporated into the Tripartite Advisory of Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment), the FCF Watchlist (which I hope the recalcitrant ones will be named and shamed), as well as other measures and quotas are further positive steps that will help weed out unfair practices and ensure fairness in our workplaces."
Other points raised in the addendum include:
- The National Jobs Council will spearhead the whole-of-Government effort to bring together 100,000 jobs and skills opportunities through the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package.
- The MOM will will work with employers to make jobs available to jobseekers willing to acquire new skills, through heavily subsidised training and the Jobs Growth Incentive.
- Where employers remain cautious about hiring, MOM will support them to host traineeships and attachments, by co-funding the training allowance with host organisation. This will allow jobseekers to gain industry-relevant skills and be better positioned for economic recovery. Stronger support will be given to employers that favourably consider middle-aged and mature workers.
- Efforts to help Singaporeans in their job search will be intensified. MOM plans to expand its offerings and improve accessibility through the SGUnited Jobs & Skills Centres across all HDB towns; Enhanced Digital Career Matching Services; and Private sector employment agencies serving as SGUnited Jobs & Skills Placement Partners.
- MOM will continue to implement the recommendations of the Tripartite Workgroup on Self-Employed Persons (SEPs). For instance, the contribute-as-you-earn model was piloted earlier this year to help SEPs make small and regular Medisave contributions.
- MOM aims to reduce payment-related disputes, mitigate the loss of income due to prolonged illness or injury, and support SEPs in their skills needs. The responsibilities of service-buyers and intermediaries will be reviewed to bring about a fairer and more balanced relationship with their self-employed workers.
- Uplifting wages at the lower end remains a key priority. In sectors like cleaning, security and landscaping where the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) has been fully implemented, full-time workers have seen their gross monthly incomes increase by around 30% in the last five years, much higher than median wages. When enhancements to Workfare are included, the gains are even larger.
- MOM will undertake regular reviews of Workfare and Silver Support. Workfare payouts were raised from January 2020 to uplift more workers. The enhanced Silver Support will provide higher payouts and help 100,000 more seniors with lesser means, covering up to one in three of Singapore's elderly.
- To better support persons with disabilities (PwDs), the Enabling Employment Credit (EEC) was introduced. It will cover about four in five of the current PwD employees. At the same time, an additional wage offset will be provided when employers hire PwDs who have not been working for at least six months.
- To make sure every Singaporean who makes the effort gets a fair chance to bounce back from employment setbacks, MOM will continue to look out for gaps in our social safety nets, and enhance support in sustainable ways.
- COVID-19 has led to individuals facing considerable stress. Hence, a renewed focus on the health and wellness of the entire workforce is needed. To that end, MOM will forge partnerships with Trade Associations & Chambers, Non-Governmental Organisations and professional bodies, to broaden and strengthen the network of support for workers.
- MOM will also build on the experience of managing and safeguarding the well-being of migrant workers during the pandemic. For that, a new operating unit − the Assurance, Care & Engagement (ACE) Group − has been set up to take over and continue the work of the Inter-Agency Task Force.
- Over the last five months, the Task Force has provided assurance to migrant workers at the dormitories and cleared the dormitories of COVID-19 infection. The new ACE Group will ensure dormitories and other migrant worker housing are safe and resilient against public health threats, by building a stronger system of medical support for migrant workers. It will also partner with the community and migrant worker groups to meet the social needs of workers.
- To ensure costs remain sustainable as the health and wellness of workers are safeguarded, MOM will carefully consider the cost-sharing model for higher standards in migrant worker dormitories and develop an insurance programme to help employers manage unexpectedly large medical expenses of their migrant workers.
- MOM noted that the “new normal” brought about by COVID-19 provides a great opportunity to review workplace practices and entrench more flexible work arrangements (FWAs). This will serve public health objectives and improve business continuity, and work-life harmony (WLH). In that line, MOM will implement the Citizens’ Panel’s recommendations to support employers to offer FWAs and WLH initiatives and promote greater awareness through diagnostic tools, ambassadors and recognising progressive employers.
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