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Written Answer by Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Acting Minister for Manpower, to Parliamentary Question on Impact of Tightened Foreign Workers Inflow on Arts and Creative Industries

Notice Paper No. 447 of 2013 For The Sitting On 11 Nov 2013
Question No. 1598 For Written Answer

NMP: Ms Janice Koh

To ask the Acting Minister for Manpower with the tightened inflow on foreign workers (a) whether the Ministry monitors its impact on the size and diversity of the talent pool available for our nascent arts and creative industries; (b) whether policies, including the fixed monthly salary requirements, can be refined to take into account the modest pay scales of skilled arts professionals and the freelance nature of work in these sectors; and (c) whether a special work pass of up to one year can be considered for foreign arts students who have graduated from local tertiary institutions.

Answer:

  1. Since 2010, the Government has introduced policies to restructure our economy to be more productivity-driven and manpower-lean, including tightening of foreign workforce controls.
  2. We recognise that the Singapore arts scene is still relatively young and that artistic maturity and excellence requires time to nurture. We are also aware that pay scales may not be comparable to those in other industries despite the nature of the work and that freelancing is not uncommon. This is also true to varying extents in other industries. However, fixed monthly salary is one of the key criteria used to determine a foreigner’s eligibility for a work pass, taken as a proxy of a foreigner’s quality and economic contribution to Singapore. This is a basic requirement for EP/S pass application and is applied consistently across the board. To allow variable payments to be counted in monthly salary for work pass eligibility would undermine this intent, as some foreign employees may end up not earning that monthly salary (e.g. due to poor sales in the case of commissions). They would then not have fulfilled the minimum salary criteria to be eligible for their work pass and its accompanying privileges.
  3. Nevertheless, we do consider some flexibility for specific arts professionals on a case by case basis, when there is support given by the National Arts Council.