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Speech at 8th Anniversary Celebration of the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore)

Mr Lee Yi Shyan, Minister of State for Trade , Industry and Manpower, Singapore Marriott Hotel

Ms Shirley Ng, President, AEA(S)

Members of the AEA(S) Management Committee

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good Evening.

  1. It gives me great pleasure to join you this evening to celebrate AEA(S)’s 8th anniversary.
  2. Since the association’s formation, AEA(S) has been MOM’s valued partner in raising the professionalism and service standards of employment agencies (EAs). Employment agencies perform an important role as intermediaries between employers and workers in our manpower landscape.

    Raising Standards Through the New Employment Agency Regulatory Framework
  3. The Singapore workforce today is ranked as the world’s most competitive workforce.1 There are many factors contributing to the ranking. Our workforce’s skill level, availability, industrial relations and an overall environment that emphasises cooperation in search of common excellence are amongst these success factors. Our challenge now is to ensure improvements of these factors especially in the context of raising productivity of our businesses and workforce.
  4. Recently, the government has introduced a slew of enhanced measures to raise the productivity of our workforce. These include redoubling our efforts in workers’ skill upgrading, the raising of foreign workers’ levies to encourage judicial use of foreign workers; and the amendment of the Employment Agencies Act. The latter aims to increase the professionalism of the industry which in turn contributes to bringing in higher quality of foreign workers.
  5. These legislative changes are also necessary to weed out the black sheep who tarnish the good name of the industry. The changes will also help to enhance the professional image of the industry which will in turn attract better qualified professionals to join the industry.
  6. As the amended Employment Agencies Act is being phased in, we want to work with you to ensure a smooth transition to the new framework.
  7. Comprehensive information on the new framework is already available on MOM’s website. We have been sending out e-bulletins to inform employment agencies of the key changes. MOM officers have been proactively calling employment agencies to remind them to renew their licences on time. We have also scheduled briefing sessions starting from this week to explain the new framework. Further down the road, we will do more to help you fulfill the various new requirements, especially the need for agency personnel to be certified. To accomplish all these changes, we will have to count on the support of AEA(S).
  8. A MOM recent FDW employer survey findings support the need for greater professionalism amongst FDW-placing EAs. The survey shows that 63% of employers ranked EA’s professionalism and good services as the most important factors in selecting an employment agent, along with the quality of candidates offered.
  9. I would go further to say that an employment agent is effective if it can bring about a high degree of match between the foreign worker and the employer. Conversely, if a new worker brought in did not match the employer’s expectation, or it led to subsequent churns and changes of employers, the agent’s effectiveness is really in doubt. I therefore call on EAs to consider ways to increase the match, to recruit right. AEA(S) can also take the lead to seek regular feedback from potential employers on how best to improve their services.

    Introducing Standard FDW Biodata Form
  10. Our analysis also shows that nearly 4 in 10 foreign domestic workers had their contracts prematurely terminated within the first 6 months of employment. This high churn shows a certain degree of wastage and inefficiency in our system.
  11. To reduce wastage and facilitate job-matching, MOM will be introducing a standard “biodata” template for employment agencies to provide information on prospective domestic workers. This will enable potential employers to make informed decisions on selection.

    Interactive Online Employment Agency Directory
  12. As part of on-going efforts to facilitate and enhance the employment process, MOM has launched a new interactive online Employment Agency Directory for members of the public in December last year. This directory provides useful information on the performance of employment agencies, such as the volume of foreign worker job-placements conducted by employment agencies.
  13. For FDW-placing agencies, the directory also includes the passing rate for the Entry Test; and the percentage of FDWs who were successfully placed by the EA and remained employed by the same employer for at least 365 days. Feedback from employers has been positive as they found the directory useful.

    Recognising Outstanding FDWs and Employers
  14. I would now like to congratulate the award-recipients this evening. Your efforts and dedication in creating a harmonious and rewarding working relationship are truly appreciated.
  15. One of the FDWs to be recognised is 53 year-old Ms Hilda. She is honoured for being a source of comfort and support to her employer whose husband passed away about 10 years ago. Ms Hilda showed dedication in caring for her employer’s family while continuously upgrading herself.
  16. Amongst the outstanding employers are examples of how they treat their FDWs with respect and understanding. Mdm Chen Julie for instance, sent her FDW, Ms Sulastutik, to English, computer courses and baking classes. Ms Chen must have Ms Sulastulik’s interest at heart to do so.
  17. MOM is heartened by these examples as they are proof that employers and FDWs can forge strong, trusting and harmonious working relationships. As Singapore develops as a Human Capital Hub, employment agencies can help achieve this goal by improving job matching standards and attracting good quality workers to work here.

  18. To the rest of you, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for providing excellent services and maintaining a high standard of practices in the industry. Your good work has contributed to the quality of the Singapore workforce. Going forward, we will need to raise our workforce’s productivity even more significantly. Your ability to bring in highly skilled workers, providing accurate matches between workers and employers will further raise the efficiency of the labour market. Let us work together to ensure that Singapore’s workforce remains the most competitive in many years to come.
  19. Thank you.

1According to Business Environment Risk Intelligence’s (BERI) 2010-2011 Labour Force Evaluation Measure (LFEM) report, Singapore is ranked as the most competitive workforce in the world.