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S Pass Holders Contribute to Economy

  • Ministry of Manpower (03 April 2007): S Pass Holders Contribute to Economy
  • TODAY (23 March 2007): Quantity vs Quality 


S Pass Holders Contribute to Economy
- TODAY, 03 April 2007

Please refer to the letter, “Quantity vs Quality” ('TODAY, 23 Mar 2007) by Mr Rick Lim Say Kiong. 

2.   To expand our economy further, more mid-skilled manpower is needed. Where there is a shortage of local skilled workers in specific sectors, the foreign workforce, including S Pass holders, has enabled us to support business manpower needs and grow beyond the limits of our local workforce.

3.   The S Pass has not depressed the wages of diploma graduates. In fact, as businesses expanded, wage levels of locals have improved. The gross starting salary for polytechnic graduates in 2006 was about $1,700, up 6% from $1,600 in 2004 when the S Pass was introduced. The unemployment rates for both polytechnic and university graduates have also fallen since the introduction of the S pass. Nine out of 10 fresh polytechnic graduates found jobs within six months of graduation last year.

4.   There will be some foreigners who do not have high level academic or professional qualifications, but are nonetheless committed to contributing to Singapore's prosperity and diversity in their own chosen fields with their relevant skill sets and experience. If they are able to contribute to the economy and meet the normal immigration criteria, we will welcome them.


Quantity vs Quality
- TODAY, 23 March 2007

Is our Government's fervent bid to attract and retain foreign talent at the expense of quality? Singapore is losing its own talent ("Singapore's leaking talent", March 15) and is trying to attract more immigrants ("Singapore shrinking", March 21), but we seem to be replacing the loss of bright, young Singaporeans with foreigners of "lesser value", so to speak. Currently, the Ministry of Manpower issues Employment Passes (EPs) to foreigners who wish to work in professional, managerial or executive and specialised jobs in Singapore. Such talents need to meet minimum requirements of a monthly basic salary of more than $2,500 and possess recognised qualifications, relevant skills and/or work experience. These stringent requirements are reasonable standards to benchmark the quality of this group of foreign workers to our local skilled workforce. Hence, holders of EPs are allowed by the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority to apply for Permanent Resident (PR) status in Singapore.

There is a separate category of work passes called the S Pass, originally introduced to cater to foreign mid-level skilled workers such as technicians and specialists in their chosen field, which strangely also allows the holders to apply for PR status. The criteria for obtaining the S Pass is less strict. The requirements are a minimum salary of $1,800, a degree- or diploma-level qualification, and relevant years of work experience. Having been in the human-resource industry for a number of years, I have noticed that there are foreign workers who not only gained an S Pass without having met the minimum educational qualification requirements, but who also went on to apply for and acquire PR here. Some were neither working in specialised nor technical jobs.

My concern is that these S Pass holders should not be the ones replacing the shortfall of our young, especially when they are not as talented as the ones lost. The S Pass scheme was introduced to give foreign workers who are deemed less "qualified" than EP holders an opportunity to work in Singapore. But why is it they are allowed to apply for PR status? Are we now compromising on quality in order to get quantity? Most of us understand the need for EP holders to be here to build the economy and create jobs, and the need for Work Permit holders to work in the lower-level jobs.But why is there a need for S Pass holders? Their minimum salary requirement of $1,800 suppresses the salaries of local skilled workers as employers have the option of choosing similarly qualified but cheaper workers. If there really is a need for S Pass holders, then maybe we should only allow employers to recruit foreigners if a local equivalent cannot be found.