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Written Answer by Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Acting Minister for Manpower & Senior Minister of State, National Development, to Parliamentary Question on Part-time Work for Foreigners on Student Passes

Mr Hri Kumar Nair: To ask the Acting Minister for Manpower whether his Ministry will consider allowing foreigners on student passes to take up part-time work in designated industries such as food and beverage, to ease the current labour shortage.

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin:

  1. As a matter of principle, foreign students in Singapore should be focused on their studies and not work. Foreigners who would like to work in Singapore should apply for a work pass. Allowing foreign students to work will blur this distinction and encourage abuse, since a foreigner may enter Singapore under the pretext of ‘studying’, but with the intent to actually find work.
  2. However, we do allow some foreign students to work in Singapore. Foreign students studying in Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), for example our publicly-funded universities and polytechnics, can work in Singapore during their period of study. These are institutions where there are other controls on international student numbers, and where we are assured of stringent admission criteria and quality. Foreign students in these institutions are allowed to work up to 16 hours per week during term time, and with no restriction on the hours during vacation. They can work in any part of the economy, including the F&B industry.
  3. We are aware of the manpower difficulties faced by employers in our tight labour market. We have an estimated 90,000 untapped pool of economically inactive residents1, including older persons and women who had dropped out of the labour force for various reasons, but who welcome the opportunity to return to work. By having more flexible working arrangements and redesigning traditional job scopes, employers can tap on this pool of latent manpower. To further encourage employers to hire older Singaporeans, the Special Employment Credit (SEC) scheme was also enhanced last year. For each Singaporean employee aged above 50 who earns up to $3,000 monthly, employers will receive an SEC of up to 8% of the employee’s monthly wages2. Additional assistance is also available through schemes like ADVANTAGE, which supports employers by defraying some of the costs involved in redesigning jobs for older workers, such as through automation. To recruit more locals, employers should approach WDA’s network of career centres at the Community Development Councils (CDCs), the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) or CaliberLink.
  4. On a more fundamental level, we also need to re-orientate our thinking, from “where can we find more workers” to “how can we do things differently so that we are able to do more with what we have”. This is because the manpower challenges of a tight labour market are a long term issue, and the sustainable solution lies in improving productivity and upgrading the economy.

1 MOM does not keep a record of all economically inactive Singaporeans. However, we are able to estimate the numbers and profile of economically inactive from the Labour Force Survey conducted on a sample of households in Singapore. The survey showed that in June 2012, 90,000 of all economically inactive residents aged 25 to 64 intended to look for a job within the next two years.
2 The enhanced SEC will be given to employers who hire Singaporean employees aged above 50 earning up to $4,000 per month. For each Singaporean employee aged above 50 who earns up to $3,000 monthly, employers will receive an SEC of 8% of the employee's monthly wages. The SEC payout will be lowered for employees with a monthly wage of between $3,000 and $4,000.