The global solution for human resource professionals, combines custom research, strategic white papers, country primers, webinars and OnDemand educational programs, and the expert guidance...
By Lien Hoang
Oct. 23—Lawyers are advising foreign companies in Singapore to advertise job openings on a government website rather than try to get an exemption from the new rule requiring this.
Before companies can apply for employment passes for foreign staff, the new Fair Consideration Framework mandates that they make the positions available to Singaporeans on the official Jobs Bank website. The framework, which took effect Aug. 1, is part of the state's attempt to appease citizens who feel an influx of foreigners in recent years has been a strain on infrastructure and made it harder for locals to find work. Public discontent in 2011 led to the worst election results ever for the ruling People's Action Party, which dominates politics in the authoritarian island nation.
The framework makes exceptions so that corporations don't have to advertise in the case of intracompany transfers, which often involve what the Ministry of Manpower calls specialists with “an advanced level of expertise.”
In the more than two months that the framework has been in place, however, practitioners have found it is risky to seek exemptions for specialists because the process can drag out the recruitment period considerably. Employers find it more efficient to follow the standard practice of listing new jobs on the state website for 14 days, after which they're free to hire anyone—foreign or local.
“It's beneficial to advertise from the outset, knowing that the length of the processing time is actually set,” Mark Chowdhry, a lawyer and director of Magrath Global, an immigration consultancy, told the Asia-Pacific Global Mobility Summit in Singapore Oct. 14. “And you don't worry then about the approvals, whether the Ministry of Manpower will consider that to be an internal transfer.”
Mark Buchanan, a partner at immigration law firm Fragomen Worldwide, agreed it's safer to get the advertising requirement out of the way, since the government is “reluctant” to grant exemptions because its “objective is to give opportunities to Singaporeans.”
The framework specifies that firms can avoid advertising if they:
• have no more than 25 employees,
• are offering a job with a monthly salary of at least S $12,000 (U.S. $9,500) or
• intend to bring in a foreign worker for one month or less.
This is in addition to the exception for employees on intracompany transfers, who must have worked for the company at least one year as managers, executives or specialists with “proprietary knowledge of the organization's service, research, equipment, techniques or management,” the manpower ministry said on its website.
The problem, Buchanan said, is that the government and the private sector may not agree on the meaning of “specialist.”
“The definition is very wide, and a lot of it is under the discretion of authorities,” Buchanan told Bloomberg BNA on the sidelines of the summit.
He added that it is impractical to advertise for a new job that lasts only two months rather than fly in a current employee.
Businesses that advertise on the Jobs Bank website but still opt for a foreign recruit must “provide a reason for not being able to hire a Singaporean” to help the government adjust education and training to fill domestic skills gaps, the Ministry of Manpower said.
The ministry also plans to “identify and engage firms that may have scope to improve their hiring and career development practices.” In other words, the government will investigate employers that employ fewer Singaporeans than other companies in the same industry and then provide a plan for the company to improve the rate of local employment.
“If a firm is uncooperative or does not adhere to the plan, it should expect to have its work pass privileges curtailed,” the ministry warned.
This has raised concerns among businesses because they don't know what local employment rates the government will find acceptable or how it will choose companies for comparison purposes.
“The guideline of the framework has not yet been released,” Chowdhry said, “so it is like going in a dark room and not knowing where the exit is.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Lien Hoang in Singapore at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at mailto:%email@example.com
Details of the Fair Consideration Framework can be found at http://www.mom.gov.sg/employment-practices/fair-consideration-framework/Pages/fair-consideration-framework.aspx.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)