Skip to main content

Speech by Minister of Manpower at the Adjournment Motion on Building a Winning Global Talent Strategy by NMP Raj Joshua Thomas

Dr Tan See Leng, Minister for Manpower, Ministry of Manpower , Parliament

Mr Deputy Speaker Sir,

Reiterating the Importance of Global Talent Attraction 

1. I thank the Member for his support of our recently announced moves to strengthen Singapore’s position as a global hub for talent.

2. As the Member shared, globally, our efforts have not gone unrecognised. Singapore ranked top in Asia and 2nd in the world for attracting and developing talent in the recently published 2022 INSEAD Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI).

3. I agree with the Member that it is important to get more support for these policies, because they a key gateway/bridge to ensure Singapore’s continued competitiveness and prosperity. Let me demonstrate how Singapore companies and Singaporeans will benefit from these efforts through an example.

  1. Mr Rob Khoo is currently Head of Marketing, Communications and Sustainability at EDPR Sunseap, a solar energy company.
  2. His entrepreneurship journey shows how Singapore’s openness has brought about more opportunities.
  3. Opportunities not just to MNCs, but also to local start-ups. Not just to companies, but also to individuals.
  4. Mr Khoo started out in media. Colleagues from countries such as US, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and China taught him critical technical and people management skills.
  5. When he subsequently decided to pivot to renewable energy and started his own solar panel company, his overseas colleagues and partners from Australia and Europe taught him everything he needed to know about the technology.
  6. Mr Khoo’s story is one of many. With the Overseas Networks & Expertise (ONE) Pass bringing in more top talent, more MNCs, more SMEs and Singaporeans will benefit.
  7. This is especially as ONE Pass holders will be able to take on multiple roles which gives them an opportunity to nurture local start-ups, even as they are employed elsewhere.

4. The future of Singapore is dependent on successfully bringing in talents as well as developing local talents. It is crucial for these talents to be able to come together to integrate well and work together. To this end, the Member has raised two key suggestions. Let me respond to each in turn.

Integrating Work Pass Holders

5. First, integrating work pass holders.

6. As the Member has shared, we maintain a clear distinction between our work pass and immigration framework. Applications for Permanent Residency or citizenship are assessed independently and they are based on considerations including the applicant’s family ties to Singaporeans, ability to integrate into our society, economic contributions, and commitment to sinking roots in Singapore.

7. Work pass holders can put in applications, and a select group are able to obtain Permanent Residency, based on a holistic assessment of the factors that I have just elaborated earlier on. While we do not provide any guarantee or fast-track to Permanent Residency for our EP and Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass holders, we hope that as they spend time in Singapore, top talent will choose to Singapore their home. Granting PR or citizenship to deserving global talent means that we can anchor them here to continue creating opportunities for Singapore and Singaporeans in the long run.

8. There are clear benefits if work pass holders are well-integrated into Singapore's society. A healthy respect for our laws, our culture, and their local colleagues will make for less friction in the workplace and at the same time produce stronger teams. As the member suggested, we can also help them ease into their stay here through orientation programmes.

  1. Currently, senior EP holders are engaged by tripartite partners when they first come to Singapore. Started in July 2021, these engagements are part of broader efforts under the National Integration Council (NIC) to promote workplace integration.
  2. During these in-depth, small group engagements, we share Singapore’s approach to key workforce and workplace issues, including maintaining fair and harmonious labour relations, and ensuring good local-foreign integration in companies.
  3. MOM also plans to pilot a Settling-In Programme for new S Pass holders next year, to familiarise them with working in Singapore and to encourage positive interaction with locals within and beyond the workplace.

9. Currently, these programmes are not compulsory. We want to seek to strike a balance between promoting integration and not being overly prescriptive in how we achieve this aim. Employers also have an important part to play in supporting foreign employees who are new to Singapore.

  1. For instance, DBS Bank launched their own Singapore Immersion Programme.
  2. It assigns all new employees a Singaporean buddy and organises activities such as sharing sessions on Singapore’s nation building journey and walking trails exploring our multi-cultural heritage.
  3. Companies interested in implementing similar ground-up integration initiatives can tap on the Community Integration Fund (CIF), administered by MCCY. 

10. As the Member also pointed out - we expect all employers, regardless whether they are local or foreign, to fairly consider local candidates for available jobs.

  1. Our intent is to create a level playing field for locals.
  2. We provide the necessary tools, at every step of the way, for locals to strengthen their own capabilities – we invest in education, from pre-school to tertiary education; we have programmes that locals can tap on to upskill, reskill and make career transitions; and we provide financial support for those who may have been hurt or hit by curve balls in life.
  3. We cannot guarantee the same outcomes for everyone – but rest assured we will do our best to provide the same fair opportunities at every single step of the way.
  4. This includes taking action against employers who have not hired fairly and may include suspending their work pass privileges. In the near future, we will expand the range of actions that we can take through the workplace fairness legislation.

Emphasising the Importance of Developing a Global Mindset among our Future Workers 

11. Second, developing a global mindset among our future workers.

12. As the Member has shared, gaining overseas exposure is key to taking up leadership positions later, especially in global companies.

  1. We have programmes to start such capability building early.
  2. The Ministry of Education (MOE) works with Institutes of Higher Learning on initiatives for students such as overseas internships and educational exchanges.
  3. We will further nuance it by working together with MOE colleagues to see how we can start cultivating a global mindset even earlier.
  4. Just as important are also programmes for locals already in the workforce. We have the International Posting Programme (iPOST), the SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative, and the Global Ready Talent Programme.
  5. At Budget earlier this year, we also announced the Singapore Global Executive Programme, which we will be sharing more details on next month.
  6. We are expanding our collaboration with countries including New Zealand, Indonesia and France to facilitate more Singaporeans in going abroad to study and work.

13. However, developing a global mindset is not something that Singapore, the Government can do alone.

  1. It requires individuals to be willing to learn, to be ambitious to have the hunger to succeed, and to be tenacious to overcome challenges.
  2. It also requires companies to devote resources to nurturing young local talents.

14. We will do more with unions, with workers and with companies. 

  1. Under the Empower Pillar of the Forward Singapore exercise that I am leading, alongside with National Trades Union Congress Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng and Senior Minister of State for Manpower Dr Koh Poh Koon, we have been and we will continue to be consulting workers and companies on how to reduce barriers, how to remove obstacles that are deterring locals from taking on global and regional opportunities.
  2. We encourage everyone to participate in our Forward Singapore engagement sessions and to contribute ideas.


15. To conclude, Singapore is a global city.

16. By being open to the world, we have benefitted from global best practices, we have created new opportunities, and we have uplifted livelihoods.

17. Looking forward, Singapore must continue to remain open to the world to prepare for the next phase of growth.

  1. We must remain open to global talent who can bring even more opportunities to our shores.
  2. And as Singaporeans, for us, we must prepare our current workforce to take advantage and leverage these opportunities.

18. The Government will continue to work hand in hand with unions, with workers and with our companies to build a vibrant and thriving global city that will be brimming with opportunities for all of our fellow Singaporeans. Thank you.