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Remarks at Press Conference on Strengthening Singapore's Position as a Global Hub for Talent

Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Trade & Industry Dr Tan See Leng, National Press Centre

1. Good afternoon everyone and members of the media. Thank you for coming to the press conference today.

2. As all of you heard at the National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee explained why Singapore must stay open and connected to the world. We must continue to build a world-class talent pool, both by developing our own talent and attracting talent from around the world.

3. Today, I will be talking about the enhancements that we are making to strengthen Singapore’s position as a global hub for talent.
Singapore as a Global Hub for Talent

4. Singapore is a global city. By being open to the world, we have been able to learn from the best, build our own local talent, create good jobs, and uplift generations of Singaporeans.

5. In the last few years, COVID-19 has disrupted our connections to the world. Like many countries, we had to take fairly painful measures to control our borders, to maintain the health and safety of all who live and reside in Singapore. Now, we are emerging from the pandemic. But significant geopolitical and economic uncertainties remain. There are countries that are turning inwards. There are also others that are going out of their way to compete for global talent.

6. In this climate, all the more, we need to be clear about where Singapore stands. We cannot leave any room for investors to doubt or to have questions as to whether Singapore remains open. As a country with little or no natural resources, talent is our only resource and talent acquisition is an offensive strategy for us. We are now in an era where businesses follow talent, as much as talent follows businesses. Both businesses and talent are searching for safe and stable environments to invest, to live and to work in. Singapore is such a place.

7. It is therefore timely for us to leverage this opportunity to cement Singapore’s position as a global hub for talent.

Attracting Talent from around the World

8. We are making four targeted enhancements to our work pass framework. This is done in order for us to better attract top talent and experienced tech professionals in areas of skills shortages. This builds on previous enhancements to our work pass framework to improve the complementarity and diversity of our foreign workforce.

9. First, we will introduce a new Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass which is a signature pass for top talent across sectors. As the name suggests, we are looking for global talent who possess valuable networks, as well as deep skills and expertise, that can help Singapore grow.
a. Compared to a regular Employment Pass (EP), this Pass has a longer duration of 5 years, and it provides the Pass holder the flexibility of playing multiple roles in our economy. Their spouses will also be able to work on a Letter of Consent.
b. There will be a few routes to apply for it. One such route is that applicants will need to earn a fixed monthly salary of S$30,000 and above, this is comparable to the top 5% of EP holders. Overseas candidates with no recent employment history in Singapore will also need to demonstrate that they have worked or will be working for an established company, with at least a market capitalisation of US$500 million or an annual revenue of US$200 million. However, salary is just one proxy. Individuals with outstanding achievements across the arts and culture, sports, science and technology, and research and academia can also qualify even if they may not meet the salary criterion. Basically, we are also looking and open to rainmakers coming here.
c. MOM will closely engage the Pass holders during their time in Singapore. The flexibilities offered by this Pass are meant to allow Pass holders to contribute meaningfully to Singapore. It is not meant to be abused as a visit or travel document.
d. Applications for the Pass will be open from 1 January 2023 onwards, and more details will be released on MOM’s website.

10. Second, we will also introduce a new benchmark pegged to the top 10% of EP holders for our existing schemes, to provide businesses with greater clarity and predictability on our work pass framework for talent.
a. Today, individuals earning more than $20,000 are granted exemptions from the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) job advertising requirement and the upcoming Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS). Existing EP holders earning at least $12,000 and overseas candidates earning at least $18,000 are also eligible for the Personalised Employment Pass (PEP). I think you would appreciate that there are many numbers to remember.
b. So, going forward, we will set a single benchmark of the top 10% of EP holders. The salary threshold for exemption from the FCF job advertising requirement and COMPASS, as well as the salary criterion for the PEP will be aligned to this. This will be set at $22,500.
c. This benchmark and streamlining are intended to give companies greater clarity on our work pass framework. With a benchmark, companies will know that future changes to the salary thresholds and criteria will be incremental.
d. The increase in the existing salary thresholds will only take place later in September 2023, a year from now, so that businesses and individuals will have time to adjust.

11. Third, we will enable companies to be more responsive and nimble to business needs. We are making two changes that will apply to all EP applications.
a. First, we will restore the FCF job advertising duration from the current 28 days to 14 days, with effect from 1 September 2022, two days from now. For context, the FCF job advertising duration was increased from 14 days to 28 days in October 2020, when the labour market was weak, and the economic conditions uncertain due to COVID. This was to give local jobseekers more time to respond to job openings. With the strong economic recovery, the labour market has tightened considerably. There are more jobs now than there are jobseekers. It is therefore timely to restore the original duration of 14 days for the FCF job advertising requirement.
b. Second, we will also reduce the processing time for all EP applications. Today, 85% of online EP applications are processed within 3 weeks. Moving forward, with immediate effect, EP applications will be processed or given an update within 10 business days. This means that within 10 business days of submitting an application, an employer can expect to hear a “yes”, a “no”, or a status update from MOM explaining that we need a bit more time. We are able to do this because of the technological upgrades we have been making to our work pass systems over the past year, and we are continually improving the responsiveness of our systems.

We hope that these changes will allow companies to move with greater speed and with greater certainty when it comes to recruitment.

12. Fourth, we continue to face a global shortage of experienced tech professionals. This is not unique to Singapore. In tandem with our continued efforts to develop our local tech talent, we will offer the option of a 5-year EP to those who fill specific tech occupations on the COMPASS Shortage Occupation List from September 2023. In line with their experience, these individuals will need to meet a higher salary criterion of at least S$10,500 per month. They should also pass COMPASS and score at least 10 points on the Diversity criterion. This enhancement will provide greater certainty to experienced tech professionals when making major decisions on relocating to Singapore, and this will allow us to anchor tech capabilities even as we develop our local pipeline.

Developing Our Local Talent

13. I have spoken about the targeted enhancements we are making to our work pass framework to better attract top talent and experienced tech professionals in areas of skills shortages. Underlying all the changes we are making is our goal of creating more, and more exciting, opportunities for our fellow Singaporeans. By bringing the best from around the world, we can tap on their networks, we can learn from their expertise, and ultimately we will accelerate the development of our local talent pool.

14. We will continue to invest heavily in developing our local workforce. The Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) mapped out growth plans for 23 sectors across the economy. For each of these 23 sectors, we have identified in-demand jobs and developed jobs and skills strategies to build up the local talent pipeline for them. We have also launched Jobs Transformation Maps, to provide job-level insights on the impact of technology on the industry and workforce. With these insights, companies can identify the requisite skills for their employees to move into re-designed jobs and emerging roles. The Government has a range of programmes to support reskilling and redeployment of workers into these new roles.

15. Besides deep sectoral expertise, locals also need global and regional exposure in order to sharpen their global instincts, and to take up leadership positions. Our agencies have good programmes to support this. Some examples are the International Posting Programme (iPOST) that funds overseas postings for Singaporeans in the financial sector, the SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative that supports companies across sectors to develop our local leaders, and the Global Ready Talent Programme that supports overseas internships.

16. We are making very systematic efforts. But when it comes to developing our own people, the work is never finished. We must keep doing more. Our ambition is to groom many more Singaporeans into becoming world-class leaders, standing shoulder to shoulder with global giants. As part of the Forward Singapore exercise, the Empower Pillar on Economy and Jobs will be consulting workers and businesses on how Government can encourage even more locals to take on regional and global opportunities, including how we can reduce barriers that deter locals from taking up overseas stints. These will be important conversations for us to understand the root of the issue, and to develop meaningful solutions. This will complement the new Singapore Global Executive Programme that was announced at Budget this year. More details will be released in due course.


17. To conclude, Singapore needs to take a proactive approach to cement our position as a global hub for talent, and send a clear message to the world that we remain open for business.

18. We will continue to groom our local talent and our leadership pool. We must attract the best here, so we can learn from them. And support to project and send our locals abroad so that they can acquire greater regional and global exposure to take up leadership positions and be strongly anchored back home.

19. We are making targeted enhancements to our work pass framework, to better attract top talent and experienced tech professionals in areas of skills shortages. This builds on previous enhancements to our work pass framework to improve the complementarity and diversity of our foreign workforce.

20. By building a deep local talent pool, and welcoming talent from around the world, we can be a vibrant global city, and we can create a society of ever-expanding opportunities for Singaporeans now, and in the years to come.

21. Thank you very much.