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Foreign workers in selected sectors can perform multiple duties with headcount caps in place

  • Lianhe Zaobao (5 August 2015): Who will maintain a platform for healthy job competition?
  • Lianhe Zaobao (13 August 2015): Foreign workers in selected sectors can perform multiple duties with headcount caps in place

Foreign workers in selected sectors can perform multiple duties with headcount caps in place
- Lianhe Zaobao, 13 August 2015 

  1. Mr Liang Wen Le, in his letter ("Who will maintain a platform for healthy job competition?", 5 Aug), had asked whether it is illegal for foreign workers to take on multiple jobs. 
  2. In general, work permit holders are only allowed to work in the job specified in their work pass. However, we have allowed employers in selected sectors to use their foreign workforce more flexibly, especially in jobs where there is a shortage of Singaporeans, to improve productivity.
  3. For example, since June 2015, work permit holders from the process, construction and marine sectors are allowed to drive as a secondary job function but not as a full-time driver. These workers can only ferry materials or people to and from work sites. This allows a more productive use of workers already here, rather than for employers to bring in more foreigners as full-time drivers, given the shortage of local drivers. 
  4. Nonetheless, there are safeguards to prevent displacement of local full-time drivers. We impose a cap on the proportion of work permit holders who can drive as a secondary function. 
  5. MOM expects all employers in Singapore to comply with the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, and put in place fair employment practices. Employers who violate the Tripartite Guidelines can have their work pass privileges curtailed. 
  6. At the same time, there are measures in place to help older Singaporeans find meaningful employment. As part of WorkPro, the Government offers grants which incentivise employers to re-design their jobs and workplaces to be more age-friendly. Employers who hire low-wage Singaporeans aged 50 and above also receive a Special Employment Credit, which subsidises the CPF contributions of these older workers. These measures help older Singaporeans remain employable and competitive in the workforce. Those who require assistance in seeking job opportunities may go to any of WDA's Career Centres, or e2i (Employment and Employability Institute)'s Career Services Centre.

Who will maintain a platform for healthy job competition?
- Lianhe Zaobao, 5 August 2015

According to employment laws, foreign workers can only work for one specified occupation, and anything else would be illegal. If this is the case, would:
  • Foreign workers who are not listed as drivers (but have a local driving license) but fetch workers to and from their workplaces;
  • Foreign workers whose job scope covers warehouse management, chemicals mixing, and welding; or
  • Foreign workers who do fettling and lacquering, who are also deployed onto marine vessels or to build roads
be breaking employment laws?  

Such a phenomenon has led to lesser opportunities for older Singaporeans who have left the workforce but are now interested to return.

Many of the foreign workers accept low wages and are ordered around – the younger ones, due to their lack of knowledge about their rights; and the older and more educated ones, due to their family responsibilities back home. This has led to a vicious cycle at the workplace. How can a 60 year old worker compete with these foreign workers when he wants to return to the workforce? 

The ageing process is unavoidable, and we will have to change course when we reach that stage. One of my older friends had given up his strenuous job of driving a Class 5 heavy vehicle and hoped switch to drive the Class 3 light goods vehicle. However, when faced with the depressed wages caused by these “multi-role” foreign workers, he has decided to retire instead.

I know of another 64-year-old who was very experienced in driving the Class 4 lorry, but only earns $6 or $7 per hour. I am worried that once he leaves his current workplace, he will not be able to take such terrible working conditions. If he decides to retire early, he might not be able to pay for his MediShield premiums.

I agree with the regulations at the airports and shipping ports that do not allow foreign workers whose occupation is not indicated as “driver” to enter their premises, as I am a part-time lorry driver myself. Foreign workers who are not “drivers” should not be driving. Which of the tripartite partners should be the one to preserve healthy competition at the workplaces?