SINGAPORE: The Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) is calling for a structured skills qualification framework for foreign workers in Singapore.
In an exclusive interview with Channel NewsAsia, its chairman said that the aim is to enhance the quality of migrant workers in the country.
About seven in 10 of the over one million foreign workers in Singapore are work permit holders and there is currently no structured skills qualification or certification programme tailored for them.
MWC said such an initiative can help to enhance the quality and skills of foreign workers, which could then be tied to the renewal of their work permits.
Yeo Guat Kwang, chairman of MWC, said: “We have to help the employers keep the better migrant workers, for any worker who may want to continue to work here after the two-year work permit term. They should show proof that they have upped their skills and they have better skills certification.”
Employers Channel NewsAsia spoke with said there should be more incentives to train foreign workers.
The construction and marine sectors enjoy levy concessions for work permit holders who possess relevant skills and certificates.
The Environmental Management Association of Singapore (EMAS), which oversees the cleaning industry – a sector heavily reliant on foreign workers – wants to see such an arrangement expanded.
Its president Milton Ng said: “Foreign workers are still the backbone of our environmental hygiene sector. To raise the professionalism of industry, all workers should be trained regardless of nationality.
“EMAS’ recommendation to overcome this is by lowering foreign worker’s levy once they are trained and skilled. Companies will then invest in foreign workers training as the lower levy will assist in defraying training cost. Skilled foreign workers can also contribute to increasing productivity.”
MWC is also pushing for a standard contract, between employment agencies, the foreign worker and employers. It is like the standard contract for foreign domestic workers, which outlines service agreements and employment terms.
Mr Yeo said: “Many of those having problems actually suffer from the malpractices of the intermediary, the employment agencies and so on. So it may be good for us to come up with a sectoral model contract to at least list down all the basic terms and conditions to make it more transparent and clear.”
Mr Yeo said his team is also working on offering placement services for foreign workers who are in between contracts, laid off or temporarily out of jobs because of pending claims or disputes with employers.
Responding to queries from Channel NewsAsia, the Manpower Ministry said it agrees with the intent to encourage firms to train their staff and retain skilled workers.
But in providing direct financial support for training, the focus is on helping the local workforce as they form the permanent pool of manpower.
The ministry added that employers who send their local or foreign workers for training can still benefit from the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme, which gives businesses tax savings or payouts for innovation and training.