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Speech at PCP for Salesforce Platform Professionals Graduation Ceremony

Minister for Manpower, Mrs Josephine Teo, Salesforce Office, Suntec Tower 5

Mr Ulrik Nehammer, Executive Vice President, Salesforce APAC

Mr Wong Wai Meng, Chairman, SGTech

Mr Tan Choon Shian, Chief Executive, Workforce Singapore 

Partners and Colleagues

 

Good afternoon, and thank you for inviting me to today’s graduation ceremony.

 

  • Heartiest congratulations to the 29 graduates who have successfully completed the Professional Conversion Programme, or PCP.

 

Update on Labour Market

2            Singapore’s current labour market situation is mixed.

  • The economy shows signs of improvement, but uncertainties remain.
  • The number of job vacancies had declined, but there are bright spots where employers are eager to hire
  • The Infocomm sector is one of them.
  • It has been identified as one of the six Growth Sectors with strong potential for job growth for Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians or PMETs.

PCPs for Infocomm Sector

3            This is why we are redoubling our efforts through the Infocomm PCP to meet growing demand.

  • Since 2016 to 2018, the number of employed residents in the Infocomm sector has grown by 7,500. This translates to nearly one in five of total local employment growth.
  • Most of the people already had skills that matched employer needs, but some did not.
  • That’s where the PCPs come in.
  • 800 locals got hired in tech jobs (such as Digital Marketing Specialists, Infocomm Sales and Marketing Specialists and Data Analysts, etc) because PCPs helped them get skills they lacked. 

 

4            The PCPs take effort – on the part of both the employers and employees.

  • But in the longer run, both benefit.
  • It is an effective way for growth sectors to meet your manpower needs and also to help our people stay relevant to the changing skills requirements of jobs.

 

5            To date, close to 400 employers in the Infocomm sector have participated in PCPs. Salesforce is a leading one.

  • Given the strong potential for job growth, I hope many more come on board, including SMEs like Attribute Data.
  • Total workforce of about a dozen, and among the total workforce, 8 Singaporeans were recruited through this PCP. One such example is 44-year old Joel Yeo.
  • Joel graduated with a Masters in Marketing and Consumer Insights and was previously the Head of Marketing at Visa.
  • After being retrenched, he joined the PCP as a Salesforce Marketing Cloud Specialist.
  • He now leads a team as the Head of Strategy and Growth at Attribute Data.

 

6            I would like to thank our programme partners – Salesforce and SGTech – for their efforts in promoting the merits of the PCP among employers.

  • Partner agencies like EDB and IMDA have also been instrumental in the nationwide drive to transform the Infocomm sector and its workforce.

 

Scale Up PCP

7            PCPs like those for Salesforce Platform Professionals, are practical ways we enable Singaporeans to be part of growth opportunities.

  • We now have over 100 PCPs across 30 sectors.
  • Since 2016, PCPs have helped more than 13,000 jobseekers move into good jobs.
  • To be relevant to employers, each PCP is highly bespoke.
  • But with employers’ support, we are always happy to do more.
  • For the Salesforce Platform Professionals, I’m happy to note that we’re adding capacity to train another 150 PMETs.

 

Supporting Fair Employers

8            Taking a step back, the purpose of our PCPs are to enable businesses and our people to grow together here in Singapore.

  • We recognise that especially when developing new areas, Singapore may not have all the skills or the people needed by businesses from the start.
  • That is why we believe it is important to stay open and help businesses put together the best possible team here to compete on the world stage.
  • However, there must be controls on foreigners coming to work here, in the form of quotas, levies or salary criteria.
  • At the same time, for business to keep growing here, investing to build up a local pipeline is key. 

9            We also need our employers’ help to keep Singapore open by committing to provide fair opportunities for our people. This means:

  • not keeping jobs to “closed circle of friends”;
  • practising fair consideration including for local applicants; and
  • hiring on merit.

 

10          Perceptions of unfairness or discrimination of any kind is damaging.

  • In places where the workforce is multi-national, like Singapore, perceptions of discrimination against locals is particularly toxic.
  • That is why we take workplace discrimination seriously – whether by age, gender, ethnicity or nationality.

11          Our approach is to balance enforcement with education.

  • We actively correct stereotypes and change employers’ mindsets through our promotional efforts.
  • At the same time, we will not hesitate to act against errant employers.

12          Since 2006, the Government has progressively stepped up our efforts to combat workplace discrimination.

  • The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices, or TAFEP, was set up to educate the public and employers.
  • The Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices was launched shortly after to guide employers on adopting such practices.
  • The Tripartite Guidelines makes clear that hiring must be based on merit and ability to do the job.
  • When members of the public report possible discrimination, TAFEP investigates and refers errant employers to MOM for enforcement.

 

13          I should add that discrimination is not easy to investigate.

  • What an employee considers discriminatory may be, from the employer’s point of view, a result of poor performance.
  • MOM must look hard for evidence, which may not be clear cut.
  • Nonetheless, we are committed to eradicating discrimination.

 

14          From 2014 to 2018, TAFEP followed up on about 2,000 complaints. Our of  a total workforce of 3.4 million, 2,000 complaints is a number we can feel quite encouraged about.

  • Action was taken against employers in 680 cases, with 280 of them resulting in debarment from hiring new foreign workers.
  • About half of these cases were for nationality discrimination and the other half for other forms of discrimination cases, such as on the basis of age, race, and gender.

 

15          At the same time, we recognise employers that demonstrate their commitment and effort to develop our local workforce.

  • There are more than 570 firms on the tripartite Human Capital Partnership programme, many of whom have put in place structured programmes to develop their people.
  • They employ over 200,000 locals (or 8% of the total local workforce).

 

16          Going by employment rates of locals whether women or older workers, we have made big strides.

  • Discriminatory job advertisements have become rare.
  • This is also partly because of the tight labour market; it is not in the interest of employers to exclude good candidates because they hold some biases.
  • This is also a reason to maintain a balanced approach to tackling discrimination.
  • Job growth prevents slack in the labour market and is a natural defence against workplace discrimination.

 

Stepping Up on Fair Consideration

 

17          In 2014, we introduced the Fair Consideration Framework, or FCF, to specifically target discrimination against locals.

 

18          How does FCF work?

  • First, not keeping jobs to “closed circle of friends” – FCF require employers to advertise on the national Jobs Bank, now known as MyCareersFuture.sg, before submitting Employment Pass applications.
  • Second, practising fair consideration – FCF requires employers to provide accurate job descriptions, so that suitable applicants may apply.
  • Third, hiring on merit – employers must not treat FCF as a paper exercise and exclude suitably qualified local candidates.

 

19          Let me give you some examples we have detected and took actions against:

  • Employers that pre-selected a foreigner for a job position, and went through the motion of advertising for the job on MyCareersFuture.sg;
  • Employers that omitted critical job requirements so there were no suitable applicants;
  • Employers that made false declarations to MOM that they considered local candidates fairly when they did not; and
  • Employers that located their HR functions overseas and claimed that they were not familiar with local laws and regulations.

 

20          On the other hand, employers may go by the book and appear to have met FCF requirements, but their actual employment profile suggests otherwise. 

 

21          This was why we introduced the FCF Watchlist as a proactive approach to identify employers suspected to have discriminatory hiring practices.

  • We watch such employers very closely. 

 

22          Which employers do we put on the FCF Watchlist?

  • Those with exceptionally high share of foreign PMETs compared to their industry peers, or high concentrations of single nationalities.
  • MOM scrutinises their Employment Pass applications closely and TAFEP engages the employers to improve their hiring practices.
  • Most are cooperative and open to suggestions on how to better attract locals. They can work with WSG.
  • Those that are unresponsive will have their work pass privileges curtailed.

 

MOM Will Raise Penalties for Discrimination Cases

 

23          We now have five full years of experience operating the FCF.

  • About two years ago, we expanded the range of employers and jobs that require advertising before submitting EP applications.
  • This was intended to ensure that local jobseekers can also access these good job openings easily.
  • Most employers have adapted and it is timely now to turn our attention to weed out the minority, that still think they can treat the FCF job advertising requirement as a paper exercise.

 

24          But besides discrimination against local jobseekers, other forms of workplace discrimination are just as unacceptable.

  • Therefore, we will stiffen the penalties across the board.
  • This will mean stronger deterrence against workplace discrimination of any kind.
  • More importantly, it sends a clear signal about the need for fairness at work.

 

25          The penalty framework will be strengthened in three ways.

 

26          First, for all forms of discrimination, MOM will raise penalties.

  • Previously, employers found to have breached the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices were debarred from hiring new foreign workers, for at least 6 months.
  • We have doubled the minimum debarment period to 12 months.
  • More egregious cases will face a longer debarment period, up to a maximum of 24 months.

 

27          Second, while the debarment used to apply only to new work pass applications, we have also extended the debarment to renewal of existing foreign workers.

  • As the duration of most work passes is two to three years, for a 12-month debarment, a third to half of the work passes cannot be renewed, and the firm cannot hire new foreign workers.
  • For a 24-month debarment, none of the work passes can be renewed, and the employer cannot hire new foreign workers.
  • This means that if employers want to continue their operations in Singapore, they would have to hire locals.

 

28          Lastly, MOM will prosecute employers and key personnel who make false declarations on fair consideration.

  • A number of the discrimination cases for any form of discrimination involve Employment Pass applications.
  • If employers falsely declared in their applications that they practised fair consideration, MOM will prosecute them under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.
  • If convicted, employers and key personnel could face imprisonment of up to 2 years, or fines of up to $20,000, or both.
  • To be clear, MOM will trace the line of accountability at the individual-level.
  • All individuals involved in the false declaration, whether it is the CEO or HR manager or hiring manager, will be held responsible. 

 

29          Let me say something about intermediaries such as employment agencies.

  • They often play a key role in the recruitment process.
  • MOM expects them equally uphold the FCF and Tripartite Guidelines when they undertake work for their clients.
  • As a next step, MOM will look into how they can be better regulated to ensure fair employment practices.

 

Conclusion

30          In closing, I would like to emphasise the balanced approach we take in managing manpower matters in Singapore.

  • We help businesses and our people grow together, such as through PCPs.
  • We keep Singapore open but exercise controls on foreign manpower.
  • Employers can hire freely but must also hire fairly.
  • We will educate but not hesitate to enforce.

31          Earlier today, I met the leaders of many Trade Association & Chambers (TAC), and emphasised the Government’s resolve to ensure fairness at the workplace.

  • The TAC leaders agree and are committed to work together with the Government.

 

32          With fairness as a foundation, we have the capacity to promote more progressive employment practices.

  • This benefits employees and ultimately employers, through a workforce that is motivated and committed to helping you grow your success in Singapore.
  • Thank you and have a great evening.