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The Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) recentannouncement to require employers in Singapore to first considerhiring Singaporeans before taking on foreigners is right in spirit.However, the details in the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) isdisappointing because it will not change anything.$CUT$
The MOM’s press release here,stated that “MOM expects all firms to consider Singaporeans fairlyfor jobs, based on merit. All firms are strongly encouraged toadvertise their job vacancies and must ensure that jobs advertisedare open to Singaporeans.”
Words like “expects”, “consider”and “strongly encourage” mean that employers are not mandated bylaw to consider hiring Singaporeans first. This is made clear byActing Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-jin who confirmed that “Theframework is not about ‘Hire Singaporeans First.’”
Employers can still go through themotion of putting up advertisements and interviewing Singaporeansfor the job but, at the end of the day, can still hire a foreigner basesolely on wage considerations.
As the name of the Framework says, all they need to do is to “consider” hiring a Singaporean worker.
This is different from the SDP’sSingaporeans First Policy which states that businesses in Singaporemust hire a Singaporean if one is qualified and available for thejob. Only when locals cannot be found are employers allowed to hireforeigners.
The SDP’s plan is backed by ourTalentTrack Scheme which requires all foreigners wishing to work inSingapore to apply and furnish details of their (qualifications,skills, experience, etc). The applicants are then ranked on apoints-based system and only those who meet the cut-off point-level willgo into a pool from which employers can hire.
The SDP’s plan is also supported by our minimum wage policy and fair wage policy which will extend to foreign workers. The biggestattraction for businesses in Singapore to hire foreigners isthat they can pay foreigners much less. The SDP will push for wage parity legislation between Singaporean and non-Singaporean workers.
The SDP’s plan thus removes a major factor that drives businesses to hireforeigners. (Fora comprehensive description of the Singaporeans First Policy, pleasesee our population paper BuildingA People: Sound Policies For A Secure Future, pages 15-24).
Read also PAP should acknowledge SDP’s contribution
Another glaring problem with the FCF isthat it applies to businesses hiring workers with Employment Passes,that is, workers drawing a salary of more than $3,300. It alsoexempts employees with salaries of $12,000 and more.
This means that the majority ofSingaporeans who do not fall within this salary range is notprotected by the Framework.
The SDP’s Singaporeans First Policy,however, makes no such qualification. It seeks – without any ifsands or buts – to ensure that Singaporeans of all salary levelscompete fairly with foreigners. Allowing foreigners who are willingto accept wages levels that Singaporeans cannot survive on is not faircompetition.
As long as this unfair advantage forforeign workers remains and that employers are not mandated by law tohire Singaporeans, employers will continue hiring foreigners overlocals. In other words, nothing will have changed.
The SDP will work to get intoParliament and if successful, we will push for a truly SingaporeansFirst Policy.