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Enhanced Support for Singaporean PMEs

  • The Straits Times (18 July 2015): Enhanced Support for Singaporean PMEs
  • The Straits Times (12 July 2015): Tests can weed out foreign PMEs with fake degrees
  • The Straits Times (13 July 2015): Hiring of foreign PMEs needs targeted approach 
  • The Straits Times (13 July 2015): Danger in monetary work scheme becoming a new norm

Enhanced Support for Singaporean PMEs
- The Straits Times, 18 July 2015

  1. We refer to the letters “Tests can weed out foreign PMEs with fake degrees” by Mr Tan Kok Tim dated 12 Jul 2015, and “Hiring of foreign PMEs needs targeted approach” by Mr Sonny Yuen Chee Choong and “Danger in monetary work scheme becoming a new norm” by Mr Paul Heng both dated 13 Jul 2015. 
  2. MOM takes a serious view of foreign PMEs using fake degrees to seek employment in Singapore. We have caught more than 5,000 such applicants with forged qualifications between 2012 – 2014. They have been banned from working in Singapore for life. As announced recently, MOM will also reject all work pass applications which contain doubtful qualifications such as those from degree mills. 
  3. In setting the ceiling for dependency on foreign workers, MOM already differentiates between the Construction, Manufacturing and Services sectors. We do not go beyond that by imposing different limits for different Services industries because the challenges faced are generally quite common in nature. Ultimately, the most sustainable solution is for all sectors to move towards becoming more manpower-lean, with a stronger Singaporean core, complemented by better-quality foreign manpower. 
  4. We agree that older PMEs are a valuable source of manpower. The recently-announced Career Support Programme (CSP) is aimed at encouraging more employers to seriously consider mature PMEs and value them for their skills and experience. The wage support provided under the CSP will be temporary and last for one year, to enable mature PMEs and their employers to adapt to each other better. The Singapore Workforce Development Agency, together with partners such as Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) and NTUC U PME, will also prepare them for their new employment. More than 26,000 PMEs have been assisted through WDA and e2i since 2011. 
  5. Working together in partnership with the employers, unions and workers, we are doing our best on these fronts: to enhance the competitiveness of our economy, to create good jobs for our people and enhance their employability, and develop good careers for them and their families.

Tests can weed out foreign PMEs with fake degrees
- The Straits Times, 12 July 2015

I hope the measures announced by Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say will also address issues like foreign professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), Employment Pass holders, fake certificates as well as English oral and written proficiency ("Timely help for S'porean PMEs"; last Friday). Like Australia, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) should conduct English proficiency tests for foreign PME applicants. The issue of foreign PMEs with fake certificates is also a concern. I hope the MOM will work with the universities here to conduct tests for foreign PME applicants, to weed out those with fake qualifications. Such tests for randomly selected foreign applicants can deter those with fake degrees from taking a chance to come to Singapore to seek employment, knowing that they could be sent home at their own expense.

If we do not take such steps, it will affect our productivity and unity, as it is also a politically-sensitive matter.

Hiring of foreign PMEs needs targeted approach
- The Straits Times, 13 July 2015

The Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) move to curb the hiring of foreign professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) is a little late but nonetheless welcome ("Firms eyeing foreign PMEs to face tougher hiring rules"; last Thursday). Past policies on foreign hires seemed to have taken a sledgehammer approach, which is appropriate only for huge, uniform problems. What is needed now is targeted policymaking that addresses the specific demands of the various industries. It is evident that while we have many unemployed PMEs, some sectors are crying out for more workers. One such area is the food and beverage (F&B) sector, where the hiring of local staff is almost impossible. Most locals seek other jobs as F&B work requires long, odd hours and is seen as lowly. The hiring of foreigners is dependent on the number of local hires, and this issue is compounded by how difficult it is to get work visas for willing foreigners. I urge the authorities to relax this ruling and allow more short-term workers into the F&B sector here. The Government may be pushing for more automation, but this is one area where the human touch and personal service are paramount. Let us not wield the sledgehammer, lest we kill off Singapore's F&B scene. On the other hand, many well-educated and qualified PMEs are struggling to find suitable jobs. The hiring of foreign PMEs is easier as they are mostly well-qualified.

We need some foreign talent who bring in expertise, skills and their international networks. However, it is not easy to distinguish between those who are needed and those who are not. The MOM needs to tread carefully here to avoid chasing away real talent. One low-hanging fruit is the arena of human resource (HR) managers and directors. I cannot fathom how a foreign PME can do a better job in HR than a local one. Local directors and managers understand regional policies and cultures much better. There are exceptions but, in general, I believe that to be true. Another area could be finance. I look forward to the Government further tweaking its policies.

But it should do so after listening to all stakeholders, including going beyond its normal feedback channels.

Danger in monetary work scheme becoming a new norm
- The Straits Times, 13 July 2015

The latest initiative to support jobless professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) has left me with mixed feelings ("Wage support for jobless S'porean PMEs"; last Thursday).

I applaud the Government for initiating the Career Support Programme, aimed at financially encouraging employers to hire older Singaporean PMEs who have been jobless for at least six months.

My concern is over the use of a monetary strategy to resolve an issue whose root causes are not related to business costs.

Most employers do not favour hiring older workers because of their perception that they are generally "over the hill", not because of their salary costs.

All jobs come with a perceived monetary value. So long as employers have a salary structure that compensates employees based on the market value of the jobs they are looking to fill, it does not matter if the incumbent is an older PME or otherwise.

Having worked with older PMEs who have been outplaced, I would say that many of them have the experience, maturity and energy levels to be able to add value to their next employer.

On the flip side, though, the single most common shortcoming is that many of them have not been through any form of developmental training or upgrading courses for a good number of years prior to losing their jobs.

Most of these job seekers can also do better if they learn the basics - how to write a decent resume, sharpen their interview skills, and present themselves well as a "good product". Having a positive mindset and being self-confident are also keys to interview success.

In the longer term, a better solution is to continue to encourage employers to change their mindset towards older job seekers.

Singaporeans must also make a stronger effort to take charge of their own careers, and invest in their own personal and professional development.
The danger in this monetary-focused scheme is that it may become a new norm.