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Oral Answer by Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister of State for National Development and Manpower, to Parliamentary Questions on the Employment Pass Framework

Notice Paper No. 166 of 2011 for the Sitting on 16 January 2012
Question No. 184 and 186 for Oral Answer.

MP: Mr Arthur Fong


To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Manpower for the past 8 years how many employment passes had been annually issued for the financial services sector and which were the top three countries that the pass holders were from.


To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Manpower (a) whether the Ministry is taking steps beyond the Enhanced Employment Pass Framework in moderating the number of EP/S Passes issued, given the expected slowdown in the economy in 2012; and (b) whether further tightening of the Employment Pass criteria to protect Singaporeans' jobs will be considered if the economy worsens beyond expectations.


  1. The number of new Employment Passes (EPs) issued annually for foreign professionals in the Financial Services industry has averaged 4,500 in the last decade, rising from 3,300 in 2001 to 8,700 in 2010.1 The net increase of EP holders in the Financial Services industry over the decade was 9,600, taking into account the outflow of EP holders. Local employment in the financial services sector also grew by over 66,000 over the 10 years to December 2010, as businesses expanded in Singapore.
  2. The Government has taken significant steps in recent years to moderate the demand for foreign manpower. We have phased in the measures, so as to give time for businesses to adjust, upgrade productivity, and rely less on manpower additions to achieve business growth. For approval of EPs, we have introduced higher qualifying salary requirements since July 2011, followed by further measures that will be effective from this month, i.e. Jan 2012. The revised salary criteria have been accompanied by tightening of educational criteria. The changes are aimed at ensuring that EP holders recruited are of good calibre, are able to contribute effectively to our economy, and to preserve a level playing field for Singapore professionals (PMEs).
  3. To complement these measures, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) recently released revised guidelines on Fair Employment Practices in October 2011. The guidelines, which aim at preserving a strong Singapore core in our workforce, call for employers to make reasonable efforts to attract and consider Singaporeans for job positions on merit, and to train them and develop their potential and careers. The efforts should include working with educational institutions, career centres and recruitment agencies to attract and recruit Singaporeans.
  4. The impact of all these measures taken together will emerge over the coming months and the coming years. We will monitor the impact carefully so as to ensure the right balance just as we would continue to remain aware and to listen to feedback from the communities. In particular, our policy changes must not end up hurting the interests of the very same Singaporean employees we are trying to help. Without reasonable access to foreign manpower, both local and global companies will not find it viable to operate out of Singapore, or curb their expansion here. This will lead to the loss of good jobs for Singaporeans at all levels. Local SMEs with the potential to expand will also be hampered if they cannot find enough or the right manpower for their operations, including both S Pass and EP holders. Hence, each time we make changes to improve the foreign workforce profile, we need to monitor the overall economic climate and have to take pains to ensure that we do so in a sensible and calibrated manner, and to provide companies with active support to upgrade their operations and train up their people. We will keep this approach of taking measured steps to manage the growth of the foreign workforce, so that employers are not forced to cut back on good jobs for Singaporeans.


1 From 2001 to 2010, the number of new Employment Passes issued annually for the Financial Services industry was 3,300, 2,000, 2,000, 2,400, 3,000, 4,100, 6,500, 7,300, 6,000 and 8,700 respectively.