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Higher minimum salary criteria for Employment and S Pass applicants

COME Sept 1, the minimum qualifying salary for new Employment Pass (EP) applicants will be raised further to S$4,500, while that for S Pass applicants will increase to S$2,500 from Oct 1.

The EP minimum qualifying salary in the financial services sector will be further raised to S$5,000 from Dec 1 - the first time that qualifying salaries are set higher for a specific sector.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a statement on Thursday evening, giving details of the government's move to raise the salary thresholds for EPs and S Passes, and to tighten work pass requirements: "Salaries in the financial-services sector have been consistently higher than in other sectors.

"The sector also continues to hire and has been attracting strong interest from local job seekers with good qualifications."

MOM said these changes will complement the Monetary Authority Singapore's efforts to encourage and support financial institutions in developing a strong local pipeline of talent.

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In a separate statement, the central bank said the higher salary criteria for E Pass in the financial-services sector "will provide further support for hiring Singaporeans in the sector".

The qualifying salaries for older and more experienced EP candidates in their 40s will be raised correspondingly, and remain around double the minimum qualifying salary for the youngest applicants. For renewal applicants, these new salary criteria will take effect from May 1 next year.

The minimum qualifying salary for EP was last raised to S$3,900 on May 1, 2020, up from S$3,600. For the S Pass, the salary floor was raised from S$2,200 to S$2,300 on Jan 1, 2019 and to S$2,400 from January this year.

MOM said the government has regularly updated the criteria for approving work passes "to enable businesses to grow as well as to support employment opportunities for locals".

It said the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has left "more slack" in the job market - and the latest adjustments, which Manpower Minister Josephine Teo described as "significant" in a virtual media interview, were made because of "the weakness of the job market and uncertain growth outlook".

"These changes will complement the extension of the Jobs Support Scheme and the introduction of the Jobs Growth Incentive announced earlier," MOM said. "Taken together, the government is providing a strong package of support to businesses that are in a position to retain or expand local employment, as well as comprehensive measures to help local job seekers secure meaningful work."

MOM said employers who want to beef up their local PMET (professional, manager, executive and technician) workforce with additional EP or S pass applicants must "strive continuously to build up and retain a strong Singaporean core".

MOM said that, in evaluating EP and S Pass applications, it takes into acount whether the employer has kept up support of local PMETs and been responsibe to government efforts to help them recruit and train more Singaporean PMETs. It also takes into account whether the employer has discriminated against qualified Singaporeans.

"This has always been government policy," MOM said. "We are giving these considerations additional emphasis now, given the uncertain economic times, to remind all employers to play their part in building up their Singaporean workforce and help sustain public support for a business-friendly work pass policy."

MOM said it will extend the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) Job Advertising Requirement to S Pass applications submitted from Oct 1. "This will promote greater awareness of vacancies in mid-skilled jobs among local jobseekers and require employers to make greater efforts to consider local candidates."

The minimum FCF job advertising duration for EP and S Pass applications will be doubled to 28 days at the same time "to give local job-seekers more time to respond to job openings and for employers to seriously evaluate their applications".

MOM added that employers further need to avoid over-concentration of EP and S Pass employees. "Employers whose PMET workforce profile suggest a bias against locals will be put on a watch list," it said.

Employers had expressed concern about the impact on costs, the labour shortage and Singapore's competitive edge when Mrs Teo first announced the move to further adjust the foreign workforce policies on Wednesday.

Responding to the details announced this evening, Sim Gim Guan, the executive director of the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), urged employers to build and boost their Singaporean core by tapping government support schemes. "This would help them to mitigate the impact of the tightening of the work pass requirements," he said.

But SNEF "hopes that the government would recalibrate the policy when the economy improves, so as to support employers to seize growth opportunities and create more job opportunities for Singaporeans".

Kurt Wee, the president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, said businesses have been facing a "very tightened foreign workforce landscape" for the last eight to nine years.

"We are seeing risks of policy being overly protective towards the local workforce and this may have a negative impact on the longer-term resilience and competitiveness of our local workforce."

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