During the second day of the parliamentary debate on the President’s Address, the issue of foreign professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) was front and centre.
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo in her speech said that the country’s management of imported labour goes beyond slowing down the growth of work pass holders and also requires tilting the balance in the favour of Singaporeans.
Leader of the Opposition and Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh, and Mr Leong Mun Wai, Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) with the Progress Singapore Party, called for stricter regulation of companies that practise discriminatory hiring practices.
In her speech, Ms Teo responded saying: “Mr Pritam Singh and Mr Leong Mun Wai might not have realised this — firms that are scrutinised have not flouted any rules yet… Instead, we have identified them through proactive surveillance because of their unusually high reliance on foreigners in their PMET workforce when compared to their industry peers.”
She added that a total of 3,200 Employment Pass applications were rejected or withheld by MOM or by employers, while they were being scrutinised, and during the period, these firms hired more than 4,800 Singaporean PMETs.
Ms Teo teared up at the conclusion of her speech. She cited the stories of three workers whom she had interacted with, who had either received help from various job-related schemes, or shared their concerns with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
“Please know that you too are always in our hearts. However long this storm lasts, MOM will walk the journey together with you. However tough it may be, we will help you bounce back”, she said.
She added that the three workers “remind the MOM team what our work is about”.
“We are always here, listening to their struggles, thinking deeply about the support they need, recognising the constraints, adjusting policies in their best interests, finding better ways to protect them against unfair practices and ultimately, helping them get onto the path of growth in their work lives that they so deserve”, Ms Teo said at the end of her speech. /TISG