During the recent National Day Rally (NDR), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shared that the Government is aware of the concerns that local PMEs have. Apart from ensuring that foreign PMEs who come in will contribute with their skills and expertise, Singapore will also bring in foreigners only in industries where they are most needed.
The topic of having to safeguard the Singaporean core is not a new one. In fact, Labour MP Patrick Tay, has dedicated the past decade to speaking out for local PMEs.
Protecting the Singaporean core through fair HR practices
In his Facebook post published on 6 July, he recognised the need to have “a level playing field for our locals with fair opportunities and fair treatment”. However, this balance is not easy to achieve and is an evolving process. Hence, MP Patrick has been speaking and lobbying on this important area in Parliament over the past decade. This is to “ensure fairness, equity and levelling the playing field especially for our Singaporean PMEs.”
MP Patrick has proposed three steps to achieve this outcome.
First, he called for fair hiring practices to be enhanced by imposing stiffer penalties for errant companies with discriminatory hiring practices. He asked for “more teeth and bite” to be given to the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP). TAFEP currently manages the watch list of errant companies and works with companies to improve their HR practices. This means more legal powers could be given to TAFEP to investigate, enforce, and even mete out punishment on errant companies.
In his NDR speech, PM Lee said the Government has decided to adopt MP Patrick’s suggestions. Thus giving TAFEP more legal teeth to go after errant companies. On top of that, a tribunal will be introduced to deal with workplace discrimination. This covers all forms of discrimination that TAFEP deals with, including age, race, religion, gender and disabilities!
Reviewing the EP application process
Second, MP Patrick proposed enhancing the EP application review process. This includes moving beyond looking at the individual applicant’s educational qualification and salary. He added that close watch should be paid to sectors with a particular imbalance.
To ensure that companies do not bring in foreign staff indiscriminately, Singapore has to ensure that those who are hired are of a certain standard. Hence, the Government has imposed a certain cut-off salary for both EP and S Pass holders. For the financial sector where salaries tend to be higher, a higher cut-off has been set. As PM Lee has announced, the Government will continue to tighten the criteria for EP and S Passes over time. This will be done gradually so as to give companies time to react and not hurt their operations.
Skills transfer for local PMEs
Lastly, MP Patrick called for structured and mandatory skills and knowledge transfer from foreign PMEs to our local PMEs. This ensures that we build up our local talent to take up leadership roles in multinational companies.