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MOM regulates local recruitment fees; penalises errant agencies

  • The Sunday Times (23 December 2012) : MOM regulates local recruitment fees; penalises errant agencies
  • The Straits Times (17 December 2012) : Regulate recruitment fee borne by foreign workers

MOM regulates local recruitment fees; penalises errant agencies
- The Sunday Times, 23 December 2012

  1. We refer to the forum letter (“Regulate recruitment fee borne by foreign workers”, 16 Dec).
  2. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) takes a firm stance against excessive recruitment fees charged from foreign workers.
  3. In April 2011, the Employment Agencies (EA) Act was amended to further tighten enforcement against unlicensed and errant EAs. As part of the revised framework, Singapore EAs are only allowed to collect a fee not exceeding one month’s salary for each year of the duration of the foreign worker’s work pass or employment contract, whichever is shorter, capped at two months’ salary. To provide greater clarity and protection for workers, EAs are required to issue itemised receipts to workers, stating the services rendered and amount collected. They must also refund at least 50% of the fees collected from workers who are prematurely terminated within the first six months of employment.
  4. Singapore EAs found guilty of contravening our laws and regulations could face a fine of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment of up to six months. In addition, MOM can penalise errant EAs by issuing demerit points. EAs which accumulate 12 demerit points will have their Work Permit Online and Employment Pass Online accounts suspended and risk having their licences revoked or barred from renewal. MOM can also forfeit EAs’ security deposits of up to $60,000.
  5. On top of regular audits and checks, MOM actively investigates and prosecutes EAs who flout the law. In July 2012, an EA was issued a composition of $5,000 and six demerit points for overcharging two foreign workers between $600 and $1600 in fees.
  6. As highlighted by the letter writer, some foreign workers might have paid high agency fees to foreign EAs in their home countries before coming to Singapore. Debts paid overseas and the regulation of EAs in foreign countries are beyond the jurisdiction of the Singapore government. MOM continues to work closely with the respective foreign embassies and shares relevant information obtained during the course of our investigations.
  7. Employers and workers are advised to work with only licensed EAs and registered EA personnel. They should check the EA personnel’s registration card and verify the details on MOM’s EA Directory. Members of the public with information on illegal EA practices can call MOM at (65) 6438-5122 or email Such calls and e-mails will be kept strictly confidential.

Regulate recruitment fee borne by foreign workers
- The Straits Times, 17 December 2012

When I read the news article about the $5,000 employment fee that the Chinese drivers incurred in order to work in Singapore, I could not help but feel that there is a degree of exploitation involved in the recruitment process ("Worries over agent's fees add to hardship"; last Sunday).

The recruitment agents take advantage of the ignorance of the foreign workers and lure them to sign up by promising high pay.

The Ministry of Manpower should regulate the recruitment process to ensure that foreign workers are not exploited, and safeguard the interests of the men and women who build our houses, drive our buses and take care of our households.

I suggest that the employer pay the agency fee and negotiate the fee directly with the agency. If he finds that the fee is excessive, he can engage other recruiters or start his own recruitment drive in foreign countries.

The authorities can also regulate the placement fee that should be borne by the successful candidate.

There are many other ways to better protect foreign workers. Turning a blind eye to their plight would be damaging in the long run, as the recent strike and protests have shown.