Singapore

SINGAPORE: In March, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng announced that from next year, the minimum monthly qualifying salary for new Employment Pass (EP) applicants will increase to S$5,600 from the current rate of S$5,000. For those working in finance, the minimum salary will increase to S$6,200 a month, due to “higher wage norms” in that sector.

An Apr 11 (Thursday) report in Aljazeera noted the “delicate balancing” act the government of Singapore must tread in maintaining the foreign talent the country needs and ensuring that Singaporeans don’t grow resentful of foreign talent, who have been perceived to be in competition for high-paying jobs.

This is especially meaningful in the light of the next General Election, which needs to be held no later than Nov 23, 2025, with the ruling People’s Action Party—set to undergo a leadership succession—ill-able to afford discontent that would reflect in election outcomes.

“The issue of foreign workers became salient in the 2011 general election, when public discontent simmered over rising competition for jobs and increasing pressure on public infrastructure,” Aljazeera noted.

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The Manpower Minister sounded a reassuring note for Singaporeans when he announced the new minimum monthly qualifying salary for EP holders, saying, “By regularly updating the qualifying salaries based on the set wage benchmarks, we ensure a level-playing field for locals.”

The salary threshold for EP holders was last raised only two years ago, when it similarly increased by S$500.

The Aljazeera report also noted that the days when foreign talents could develop their careers in Singapore are likely to be over due to the higher qualifying salaries.

“The trend of limiting foreign talent deployment to specific skills and industries is inevitable. In the past, foreign talent had the opportunity to develop their careers in Singapore across various roles but now, the focus will likely be on senior and niche positions,” Mr Sid Suhas, the senior vice president and head of EMEA & APAC at the talent acquisition firm Cielo, is quoted as saying.

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The analysts quoted in the piece largely agree that the move is beneficial toward Singaporeans, who will be prioritized by firms when it comes to hiring.

At the same time, it will help ensure that best of the best among foreign workers will continue to be attracted to work in Singapore.

In 2022, the Overseas Networks and Expertise (One) Pass was introduced, targeting top foreign talent with a fixed monthly salary of S$30,000 or more from a single employer.

Aljazeera noted that last year, almost 4,200 One passes were approved.

Mr Joshua Yim, the CEO of talent acquisition consultancy Achieve Group told Aljazeera, “Going forward, it’s a clear sign that the Singapore government wants to bring high-calibre individuals into the Singapore workforce – and firms will need to deliberate more carefully about hiring top-tier foreign candidates who are skilled and can add to Singapore’s long-term competitiveness. All the more, MNCs will see Singapore as a place for the cream of the crop.” /TISG

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