Singapore Makes Firms Consider Citizens Before Hiring Foreigners

Photographer: Munshi Ahmed/Bloomberg

Office workers walk through the cetral business district of Singapore. Close

Office workers walk through the cetral business district of Singapore.

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Photographer: Munshi Ahmed/Bloomberg

Office workers walk through the cetral business district of Singapore.

Singapore will impose new rules prodding companies to consider locals before hiring foreigners for professional jobs, according to the Ministry of Manpower.

The city state will set up a job bank where companies are required to advertise positions before applying for so-called employment passes for foreign professionals, it said. The advertisements must be open to all Singaporeans.

“Even as we remain open to foreign manpower to complement our local workforce, all firms must make an effort to consider Singaporeans fairly,” Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said in a statement today. “‘Hiring-own-kind’ and other discriminatory practices that unfairly exclude Singaporeans run against our fundamental values of fairness and meritocracy.”

Singapore tightened restrictions on foreign workers for a fourth straight year in February, in part because of voter discontent over congestion, rising property prices and greater competition for jobs and education. The curbs have led to a labor crunch and rising wage costs for companies, which the government has said will probably hurt growth in Southeast Asia’s only advanced economy.

Local Talent

Responding to feedback from Singaporeans that some companies are hiring foreigners over citizens, Tan and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam met with senior management in a number of financial companies to emphasize that they should make a concerted effort to develop a local talent pipeline, the manpower minister said in Parliament in March.

“We must set expectations about what is acceptable and what is not,” Tan said today. “It requires persuasion, explanation and leading by example. The worst employers must be taken to task.”

Singapore will also raise the minimum pay for employment-pass holders to S$3,300 ($2,600) a month in January, according to the statement. The job bank will be set up by mid-2014, it said. Companies with 25 or fewer employees will be exempt from the new rules, as well as jobs that pay a fixed monthly salary of S$12,000 or more, according to the statement.

The government will also identify firms “that have scope to improve,” such as those with a lower concentration of Singaporeans at the professional, managerial and executive levels, compared to their peers, or those that have faced nationality-based discriminatory complaints, the ministry said.

Foreign employment growth in Singapore slowed in the first half of 2013 from a year earlier and the labor market will remain tight for the rest of 2013, the ministry said this month.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sharon Chen in Singapore at schen462@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Phang at sphang@bloomberg.net

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