By Moustafa Daly
The government of Singapore has announced stricter criteria for foreigners wishing to obtain or renew their Employment Pass (EP) in the country.
Applicants to the EP will now be subjected to a two-stage eligibility framework, known as COMPASS, which would entail meeting four conditions. The new framework is set to come into full effect by Sept. 1, 2023.
“Singapore must continue to remain open to complimentary talent. Our EP framework allows firms to build the best team of talent, comprising locals and foreigners, so that our firms can thrive, grow, and create good jobs for the workforce,” a Ministry of Manpower explanatory video on the new EP framework states.
As outlined by the government, the four criteria will focus on the prospects’ salaries, qualifications, diversity, and the potential of their professions’ support to the local economy.
“The new regulations, on one hand, protect local employees from unfair competition, and on the other hand, it gives qualified foreigners and their employers more flexibility,” says Philippe May, CEO of EC Holdings, to Uglobal. “[The government] has implemented this framework to remain competitive as a business hub and to assure local employees that Singaporeans come first - a very smart move in my opinion.”
What are the changes to Singapore’s Employment Pass?
The first eligibility stage for Singapore’s EP pertains to salaries. Currently, applicants need only to meet a minimum salary requirement of at least $5,000 – with the threshold increasing progressively with age – with those in their mid-40s having to earn a minimum of $10,500 to be eligible.
The announced changes add further restrictions to the salary threshold; obliging candidates to earn amongst the top one-third of local salaries in their professions.
Once applicants meet the salary requirement, then they must pass the COMPASS point-based system that determines their eligibility.
First are their academic qualifications; those who received degrees from top-tier educational institutions gain the highest points. The government determines a list of top-tier institutions that includes universities worldwide.
The second criterion in the point-based system would pertain to diversity requirements; applicants originating from countries less represented amongst the employer’s PMET (Professionals, Managers, Executives, Technicians) workforce would be more favored and gain higher points.
Applicants would have a better chance at gaining higher points if they’re employed by a company that has a higher share of local employees compared to others within its sector.
Each category has a weight of 0 points for those who don’t meet expectations, 10 points for those who meet the expectations, and 20 points for those exceeding expectations. Applicants who earn a total of 40 points would qualify for the EP.
Also, there are two ways applicants can gain bonus points; first, if they work within a sector that’s suffering a skills shortage, which would earn the applicant 20 points; and second, those working within sectors that the government has designated as strategically important for the progress of the economy – which would gain the applicant 10 points.
Why is the Singapore government tightening employment pass restrictions?
The government says the framework would serve as a transparent system that provides businesses with greater clarity on how to hire foreign labor while also protecting the local workforce.
“Singapore is a small, international economy and needs to remain open to immigrant work force, but we cannot eliminate restrictions like EU countries do (at least for other EU nationals) as this would disadvantage Singaporean workers,” explains May. “The new framework is part of a constant improvement of Singapore’s immigration policy and shows the high level of understanding decision makers have of both the local citizenry’s needs and those of the labor market.”
The new measures have met widespread support by Singapore citizens, says May, further expressing his optimism that the COMPASS framework will position Singapore in a competitive position to continue attracting top-tier foreign labor to the benefit of its economy.
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