The government will make further adjustments to Singapore’s foreign workforce policies, including raising the salary criteria for Employment Pass (EP) and S Pass holders. This, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo on Wednesday, will “reflect the changed conditions” as there is now more slack in the labour market, due to the impact of Covid-19 and the economic disruption it has caused so far.
The last adjustment to the EP minimum salary for foreign professionals was in May this year, when it was raised to S$3,900 per month, up from S$3,600. For EP renewals, this new salary requirement will only take effect from May 1, 2021.
The most recent change to the S Pass minimum qualifying salary was carried out in two phases. In January 2019, it went up to $2,300 from S$2,200. The second increase to the current level of S$2,400 took place in January this year.
In her ministry’s addendum to the President’s address, Mrs Teo said that Singapore’s foreign workforce policies have been designed to support economic growth so as to create good jobs for Singaporeans. “There is regular calibration, to enable firms to access the manpower they need while ensuring a strong Singaporean core,” she said.
Mrs Teo noted that, in the last decade, the government has also made policy adjustments to spur businesses to upgrade their productivity. Nearly six in 10 locals in the workforce today are employed in PMET (professional, managerial, executive and technician) jobs.
This, she said, is a rate that is among the highest in the world. And for every EP holder out there, there are almost seven locals working in PMET jobs, said Mrs Teo. She said that even as Singapore continues to stay open to the world to accelerate the country’s recovery, the crisis makes it “all the more important” that employers give fair treatment to Singaporeans.
“They should also seek to achieve greater diversity within their EP and S Pass workforce where practical. We will ensure that employers uphold both the letter and spirit of the Fair Consideration Framework,” she said.
Mrs Teo said the authorities will “closely examine” retrenchment exercises to ensure they are carried out fairly. She also made the point that businesses that bring in skills which are in short supply or new networks of opportunity for Singaporeans “will always remain welcome”.
“At the same time, we will require businesses to invest more effort to develop and strengthen their Singaporean core,” she said.
“Singaporeans, regardless of age, race, gender, must have a fair chance at job opportunities. While employment rates have risen for mature workers, women and ethnic minorities, we must remain vigilant and build on the gains,” she added.
On the issue of wages, Mrs Teo said that uplifting salaries at the lower end remains a key priority for her ministry. In sectors such as cleaning, security, and landscaping where the progressive wage model (PWM) has been fully implemented, full-time workers have seen their gross monthly incomes increase by around 30 percent in the last five years.
This, said Mrs Teo, is much higher than median wages, and the gains are “even larger” when enhancements to Workfare are included.
“In the context of the current downturn and very uncertain outlook for the economy, our overriding objective is to ensure continued employment opportunities for these workers,” she noted.
“Over time, we will expand the PWM to more sectors, in a manner that is practical and ensures we preserve low levels of local unemployment.”
The effort to improve wages at the lower end will require a long-term commitment and new mindsets from employers, service buyers and society, the minister said.
“We may have to pay slightly more for services, so that lower-income workers are able to take on better jobs and earn higher wages.”
— Business Times