Singapore—On Monday, November 4, Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC Member of Parliament Saktiandi Supaat asked for the criteria for eligibility for employment pass (EP) holders to be tightened.

In answer to this Minister of State for Manpower and National Development Zaqy Mohamad stated how Singapore’s firm stand on favouring citizens over foreigners when it comes to employment has not gone unnoticed, the Straits Times (ST) reports.

Mr Zaqy made mention of the Global Competitiveness Ranking published by the World Economic Forum in October, wherein the county ranked 93rd out of a total of 141 countries in the aspect of ease of hiring foreign labour.

The Minister noted that this comes with a price, since it could cause big international firms some qualms when it comes to investing in the country, which cops result in fewer jobs.

“As an international business hub, such perceptions carry some cost,” he said.

The Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP said that more efforts could be made with the training of local workers for the skills looked for in foreign workers, which included broadening an initiative which supports the transferring of international capabilities and expertise from transnational companies to the local workforce.

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Mr Saktiandi said, ”We cannot continue to have the inflow of foreign specialists in perpetuity without regard for the well-being of our Singapore core.”

To answer him, the Minister of State for Manpower and National Development said that the criteria for EP holders undergo regular reviews, the last one carried out only two years ago, in 2017.

However, he assured Mr Saktiandi that the ministry would study the MP’s suggestions on broadening the initiative for the benefit of the local workforce.

The Minister said that most of the jobs that firms could potentially hire EP holders to fill are actually still held by locals.

He cited that in most sectors, locals occupy three out of every four jobs, except in the infocomm sector, wherein locals hold two out of every three positions.

In Parliament on Monday, Mr Saktiandi, along with Desmond Choo (Tampines GRC), also called for stricter measures that would guard against age discrimination in hiring practices in the country, especially considering Singapore’s ageing population, which is reflected in its ageing workforce as well.

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The Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP noted the rise in the unemployment rate for workers aged 50 and above, although he admitted that “things are improving, but this demographic segment (of older workers) could be susceptible and needs to be monitored over time.”

Mr Choo asked for the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to think about conducting longitudinal analyses of firms’ hiring practices to determine if any are discriminatory, especially in terms of ageism.

“Such studies can also show up companies that had consistently favoured foreign workers over local talent.”

Mr Choo, an assistant secretary-general at the National Trades Union Congress, said that the labour movement would be eager to show support for this measure.

Mr Zaqy pointed out that more older Singaporeans are actually more employed today “than ever before.”

He added, “The unemployment rate for workers aged 50 and above has also been consistently lower than the overall rate.”/ TISG

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Increase in SG population mainly due to rise in citizens and foreign workers