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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 Qualifying Criteria for Employment Pass

Er Dr Lee Bee Wah: To ask the Acting Minister for Manpower (a) what is the salary band for experienced foreigners to qualify for an employment pass; (b) whether the Ministry will give ample notice for employers to make adjustments to their business operations when changes to manpower policy are introduced; (c) what help is available for those companies whose foreign worker passes are not renewed/approved and yet cannot find local replacements; and (d) whether any Government agency tracks the loss in business due to the tightening of rules on the hiring of foreign workers.

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin

  1. To qualify for the Employment Pass (EP), applicants will have to earn a salary of at least $3,000, with the exact requirements depending on his qualifications and experience. While young graduates from good institutions can qualify if they earn at least $3,000, more experienced applicants would have to earn more than $3,000 to qualify, commensurate with the work experience and quality they are expected to bring. This ensures that EP holders hired are of good calibre and do not compete unfairly with Singaporeans by coming in at lower wages.
  2. We have not disclosed precisely how much salary is required for what age, and at what level of qualifications, as we expect employers to independently determine what is the value of the job. However, we have provided companies predictability in the EP application outcome via our online Self Assessment Tool (SAT), which will provide applicants with an indication of whether they are likely to obtain an EP or S Pass based on their age, qualifications and salary. Many employers have not tried using the SAT. We strongly encourage companies to take time to use the SAT when shortlisting candidates for interview before the candidate is selected and before submitting an EP or S Pass application. This will avoid unnecessary frustration with rejected applications. The SAT has a high degree of accuracy. In particular, if the SAT outcome is negative, it is almost certain that the candidate will be rejected if an EP application is submitted. Only a very small proportion of positive SAT outcomes will be eventually rejected, and these often relate to cases where the applicant or company has a past adverse history or if there are security considerations.
  3. We have always given businesses time to adjust to foreign manpower policy changes. We have provided a transition period for existing work pass holders. For example, while we announced the higher qualifying salary requirements for EP in August 2011, the changes were implemented for new applications from 1 January 2012 and for renewals from 1 July 2012. For existing EP holders whose passes expired before 1 July 2012, we gave a one-time renewal of one or two years depending on when their passes expired.
  4. Employers who are unable to renew the EPs of their existing EP holders should consider more pro-active ways of finding and attracting Singaporeans to take on such positions, such as by offering Singaporean students internship positions or vacation jobs in their companies to gain experience, and interest them to join after they graduate. In sourcing for suitable Singaporeans, companies can also tap on the Workforce Development Agency’s (WDA) network of career centres at the Community Development Councils (CDCs), NTUC-Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) and CaliberLink, WDA’s one stop service point for Professionals, Managers and Executives. We also encourage businesses to tap on the many Government support schemes to raise productivity and reduce dependence on manpower.
  5. MTI tracks indicators of business costs and business activity closely. On business costs, we monitor indicators such as the Unit Labour Cost (ULC), rentals and utility costs, and assess their impact on our competitiveness. On business activity, we monitor sector-specific indicators, such as the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) for manufacturing, as well as economy-wide indicators, such as investment commitments. MOM and MTI also gather feedback from businesses and investors on a regular basis.
  6. The Government will continue to monitor the impact of our manpower policies closely and support businesses in making the transition to improved productivity and reduced reliance on manpower inputs.