Sep 24, 2013

    Give citizens fairer shot at jobs

    SINGAPOREAN professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) can soon expect fairer hiring opportunities.

    From August next year, firms must put out advertisements for job vacancies on a new online national job bank before they make a new Employment Pass (EP) application. Job advertisements must be open to Singaporeans.

    Failure to do so results in the companies' EP applications for their foreign hires being rejected.

    This is part of the new Fair Consideration Framework announced by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) yesterday, which is aimed at ensuring that employers give Singaporeans due consideration for job opportunities.

    Under this framework, firms that have discriminatory hiring and career-development practices can also expect greater scrutiny from the ministry.

    This includes those with a "disproportionately low concentration" of citizens in PME positions compared to others in their industry, said MOM. The scrutiny also applies to firms with repeated complaints of nationality-based or other discriminatory practices.

    Such firms, to be identified by MOM by the first quarter of next year, will be required to provide information such as recruitment processes and organisation charts with nationality information.

    Unresponsive firms may have their work-pass privileges curtailed, which could include not being able to hire foreign employees for a period of time.

    As part of the MOM's regular reviews, the qualifying salary for new EP applications will also be raised from $3,000 to $3,300 from January next year, in line with rising salaries.

    Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said that the framework is not about getting employers to hire only Singaporeans, but to help them get fair opportunities in the workplace.

    "Fair consideration is fundamentally about attitudes and mindsets. It is neither possible to change mindsets overnight nor legislate the problem away," said Mr Tan.

    Mr Patrick Tay, director of the National Trades Union Congress' PME Unit and Legal Services Department, said the new framework is a means to "level the playing field, especially for our young PMEs".

    The framework was also welcomed by Mr Jonathan Asherson, chairman of the Manpower and Productivity Committee at the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce.

    Still, he pointed out that there is a "need to be cautious that it does not create a sense of uncertainty among foreigners who may feel discouraged from working in Singapore".

    Mr Chan Chong Beng, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, said that imposing additional scrutiny on firms with discriminatory practices will "deter those who intentionally don't want to employ Singaporeans".

    "Even though it's not legislation, it's a signal from MOM that highlights how Singaporeans should not be sidelined," he said.