There is an increased in quota for S-pass foreign workers as well as relaxation of rules for Personalised Employment Pass (PEP) – people who earn at least S$7000 by the Manpower Ministry.

This effectively means that companies are now about to hire more foreign talents if they are not able to hire any locals for the job. In turn, this means that if the ratio of foreign talents to locals in their company is less than 1:4, they have the option of looking overseas for potential job-seekers.

While this means they have to pay the foreigners at least S$1800 (because it’s an S-pass), they will not suffer a labour crunch then they (i) can’t find people here and (ii) meet the 1:4 ratio requirement.

However, because of the S$1800 minimum salary requirement, it is unclear how this will affect the dynamics of hiring a foreign talent, though it has always been considered cheaper to do so.

In addition, the rules for PEP has also been relaxed. This means that for anyone who earns at least S$7000, he can apply for a 6 months PEP to look for job here, as opposed to confirming a job offer here before applying for a pass. This system is somewhat similar to that of Australia, where you typically apply for PR before you can get employed.

The next question is – how this will affect the salary that a Singaporean gets nowadays.

COMPANIES hungry for workers cheered yesterday when the Government announced that they can soon hire more foreign workers.

They can do so at all levels but a bigger chunk of these extra workers looks set to be mid-level skilled workers, or S-pass holders, due to strong industry demand.

This is because these workers can form up to 25 per cent of a company’s total workforce, a jump from the current 15 per cent. An S-pass worker, who is a notch above a work permit holder, must earn at least $1,800 a month.

The changes in the various industries’ dependency ratios – which is the number of foreigners a company can employ relative to its local employees – will take effect in January.

They were announced by Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen last night at the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year event, at which logistics firm YCH Group’s chairman and chief executive, Mr Robert Yap, won the title.

In applauding the changes, the Singapore National Employers Federation, said: ‘They are a very welcome, very timely and very significant response from the Government.’

Its executive director, Mr Koh Juan Kiat, also said that potentially, the 10 percentage point increase in S-pass holders may see between 50,000 and 100,000 workers coming in.

Employers have recently called for the foreign worker quota to be raised. Faced with a buoyant economy, many struggle to fill job vacancies.

It was a situation not lost on Dr Ng.

He said that to succeed as an ‘economy built on high innovation and value addedness’, relying on talent in Singapore is not enough.

There is a limit to the growth of Singapore’s resident labour force, he said, referring to a workforce that includes permanent residents as well. It eased off to just 2 per cent this year.

At the same time, unemployment is at a 10-year low – 1.7 per cent in September.

Dr Ng also noted a crucial condition that helped Singapore become the world’s most competitive labour market this year. This factor is that companies here have access to the manpower they need.

Hence, the introduction of the measures to ensure such access continues.

But with the higher proportion of S-pass holders being allowed in, the Manpower Ministry is hoping companies will use it to improve the quality of their foreign workforce.

Contractors look set to do so. Mr Simon Lee, executive director of the Singapore Contractors Association, said the new S-pass quota comes in handy because contractors would need more skilled supervisors to lead bigger groups of workers, as building activities at a few major projects are expected to intensify from mid-2008.

However, Mr Kellvin Ong, Rendezvous Hotel’s general manager, cautioned: ‘We also have to be mindful of the bottomline. S-pass workers have to be paid a minimum salary.’

Citigroup economist Chua Hak Bin said that in sectors like construction, allowing more foreign workers will mitigate labour costs and ‘more importantly, the greater risk of project delays due to a shortage of workers.’

Besides the quota changes, the Manpower Ministry is also removing the two-year requirement for higher-paid workers eyeing a personalised employment pass (PEP).

This pass, introduced this year, lets them remain here for up to six months in between jobs. Currently, those earning at least $7,000 a month must work here for at least two years before they can apply for a PEP.

But from March 1 next year, those whose last-drawn fixed salary abroad is $7,000 a month can apply straightaway for the PEP.

Article obtained from on 29th November 2007

Reader's Comments

  1. James Michael | November 29th, 2007 at 11:04 am

    I’m currently a student @ London Sch of Economics,(a sporean btw),i was previously working @ Dbs & Singtel,all i know is the employers emphasize on foreign talent,which i strongly believe is sprouting nonsense,the problem with the govt is by giving leeway,they are engaging the employers to hire foreigners at the expense of local populace,giving excuses like locals are demanding,meticulous about pay packages,concerns on medical reimbursements & other fringe benefits,in spore,there’s no welfare for the local workforce,if you are a full-time employee,i think you would know what i’m talking about,as long there’s a gateway for foreigners to work,it will be a humongous change for the locals,my piece of advice,its the beginning of the end,just take a closer look,over @ your office,in buses,MRTs,shopping malls,even cinemas,whether its GV or Cathay,you can sense a foreigner in your midst,just migrate to another country of your liking,i’ve chosen mine!Whats yours?

  2. Daily Sg: 29 Nov 2007 « The Singapore Daily | November 29th, 2007 at 11:25 am

    […] Strangers in a Strange Land – Simply Jean: Foreign workers / talents are here to stay […]

  3. Zhanzhao | November 29th, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    I know of employers getting around this issue by actually “topping” up the foreign workers pay so that they meet the criteria (they have to pa back under the table of course) just so they can hire foreign workers.

    Pushing the problem to the government is nonsense. The Singaporean bosses are the ones who decide whether to hire (and cheating to hire) foreign workers. I’ve nothing against foreign talent, but with cheapskate bosses around this will always happen.

    But this will come back to haunt them though. With a boss like this, you can imagine the work ethics brewing in this sort of environment, and employees will leave at the first sign of a better offer (after all, why have a nice looking pay on paper only when they can get paid better in reality?)

  4. angmol | December 22nd, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    Foreign talent. indians lying on the floor of hdb void decks

    foreign talent. bullying singaporeans

  5. Nasirah | January 12th, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    well i guess everyone has his/her own grudges against foreign workers but rather i just think that the idea of government has been miscommunicated/mis understood by most of us maybe.

    We needed manpower initially so we went for foreign workers. We needed people to do the menial work in Singapore like clearing our HDB wastes, sweep the litter and keep Singapore clean and green, so we needed foreign workers. We wanted to excel in LifeSciences and IT so we needed the brainies from foreign lands. Like these, there were many needs of Singapore to be fulfilled hence the import of foreigners increased.

    Another reason maybe that Singapore government had thought that the import of foreign talents will make us work harder and be better than the foreigners but the situation is like the otherwise. More of us are just running away because life is too short to struggle throughout this dog-eat-dog world. Rather we prefer a relaxed and entertaining and balanced lifestyle.

    Therefore many of us are going overseas like Australia, Cananda, US , UK and many other coutries to STUDY, WORK and settle down. Hardly are even thinking of a return back to Singapore because of the current lifestyle in Singapore. My uncle too went off to overseas to settle down and he just enjoys the lifestyle there – minimal stress, more fun, etc.

    Even I initially thought why are there so many foreign students in my university(NTU). Yes it is a good platform to communicate, exchange ideas, know more about other countries and culture and many more but the competition they pose is really intolerable. Being one of the top students in my primary and sec schools, scoring a just nice grade was really humiliating. The bell-curve shifting really irritates alot of us and for the moment we think why should there be foreign scholars here spoiling our chances of survival, especially when they have learnt most of the stuff in their home country. That point I thought of migrating too then i realised i don’t want to chicken out. I want to take it as a challenge to do as well as them or maybe better. Challenges make life interesting and I’m in the boat travelling to find my destination. Hope I can succeed in this challenge and hope all our Singaporeans can challenge yourself to do it and be better than foreign talent. I’m waiting for the day when Singapore government says ‘My people are talented enough that we don’t need much foreign talents yet Singaporean are needed worldwide’ 🙂

  6. Pyee | January 19th, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    This is a globalized world and we must aware that different people have different talents. It doesn’t mean that anyone is smarter/ better, we have different cultures and we are trained in different ways. So foreign talents, or workers do have something that locals don’t have and vice versa. Having them in your university/workplace doesn’t make you stupider because you are what you are. It just brings an awareness that you are not going to compete with your own country man only in the future. Grades are just stastitics, not a personal identity. It’s supposed to be a mandatory growing up phase for everyone in a good university to see your own grades drop. That’s what make a university and a secondary school different.

  7. sandie | February 3rd, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    take bus 23 or 65 to klang lane. hundreds of illegal workers, indians, banglas lying on the floor of hdb void decks.

  8. conscience | May 13th, 2008 at 7:04 am

    Whose behaviour is uglier? The workers lying on the floor of hdb void decks or Singaporeans…..The local agencies and employers (including multi-million dollar companies’ owners) charged the workers exorbitant sum, as high as $8-10k to give them a $600-1000 job and work 10-12 hrs a day, $3-5K out of the $8-10k goes to the employer. The employers are already not paying a single cent to agencies to hire the workers, instead they demand the agencies to get the workers to pay extra $3-5k to them as a condition to hire them. Even if the employers did not demand, the agencies here will make such offer, so that they can be more competitive than other agencies who do not have such offers. I understand the agencies need to earn a profit for providing their services, but why are the employers making “profit” out of their foreign workers, who are contributing the hard labour to their companies?! Due to housing shortage, many landlords take advantage of the situation and charge exorbitant rental, e.g. $300 per pax for 6 pax in 1 bedroom! Dear Singaporeans, who is uglier? We may put it simply that there’s demand, there’s supply, but has anyone thought of the consequences should these unscrupulous people continue to exist? If the workers are unable to recover their “investment”, will it lead them to committing crimes (theft, robbery….) or creating other social problems due to desperation? Dear Ministers, can the authorities help?

  9. napalm | July 2nd, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    such an intelligent and open discussion from you guys only proves that locals are as good and able to compete with other talents. if only you put the efforts in the right place.

    instead of being negative and defensive against foreign talents, you can channel your energy to finding out how to improve yourselves as everyone of any people or denomination needs some sort of self-improvement

    definitely when all is said and done, you will be more globally-competitive and will be more ready for this highly-globalised culture we currently have any where in the world.

    soon borders and races will be immaterial and all that will matter is what you can offer to the world

  10. andy | December 22nd, 2008 at 11:47 am

    everyday hundreds of foreign workers, squatters, illegal workers and overstayers come to klang lane and belilios road.
    Blocks 671 and 672 provide free housing to indians, banglas, pakistanis etc. Although its a hdb residential area and there are prominent sign boards stating no illegal gathering, no loitering in hdb void decks and lift lobbies/staircases.
    Something has to be done. there is no crowd control and no police patrol or regular visits/spotchecks by hdb or town council or any authorities. Fellow singaporeans pay hdb with their hardearned hdb cpf and borrow money to build their homes but we see foreign workers lying on the floor of the void decks and letter box area. There are no police who check their ID or charge them with loitering or illegal gathering.
    on weekends, the roads surround klang lane and belilios ,chander road, race course and serangoon road are completely swamped and blocked. cars are unable to pass . residents are sruck in their homes and unable to pass.
    when residents try to make calls to 999, their mobile lines are blocked due to overuse of mobile lines in the area. do we need to wait for an ang mo or mp to be affected before we act on this ?HELP

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