Singapore has been facing a dual edged sword for quite some time now. Immigration had skyrocketed at the beginning of the decade, thereby compelling the government to stem the tide and tighten its policies, most notably the visas granted to skilled foreign workers. The population has been stabilizing in the last three years but this has lead to a substantial shortfall of available workers in specific skilled categories. The curb on immigration was also brought about to fuel employment growth for citizens. Many companies had been more tilted to hire immigrants for skilled and unskilled jobs, which hampers growth and opportunities of Singaporeans. The tightening of the immigration policy has now been reviewed without making any specific changes to the stringency but allowing some flexibility in some sectors.

The foreign manpower policy stands thus. The Employment Pass remains the fundamental benchmark. Companies that intend to hire immigrants or foreign workers at salaries lower than the qualifying criterion for the Employment Pass can look for some leeway. Economic agencies will exercise a little flexibility while dealing with such cases. In other words, companies that are unable to find the right candidates for their skilled jobs may look for some relief and can hire immigrants or source workers from other countries. While this may seem like a step that would undermine the foreign manpower policy, in reality it doesn’t.

The selective flexibility that Lim Swee Say, Manpower Minister of Singapore, has spoken of has factored in the unavailability of adequately qualified or trained workers in the country as one of the precursory conditions for such flexibility. Only those companies that have failed to hire appropriate local talent in a given category will be able to opt for foreign workers. These jobs would have to be in demand around the globe but there must be a lack of local talent for the flexibility to be exercised. Clearly, there are riders to access the leeway that has been provisioned for.

Many industry experts have pointed out that Singapore does not have a sufficient talent pool of professionals or trained graduates who are deemed hirable for jobs in cyber security and other high end niches within information technology. The country is trying to become a Smart Nation, as per the government initiative. There are many related industries that are unable to grow because of the lack of available talent, with or without experience. This makes it imperative for companies operating in these industries to look beyond the city state to source appropriate talents.

The Manpower Minister has also made it clear that any company enjoying the flexibility should do its bit to hire local talent wherever possible and should fuel growth in employment for Singaporeans. Failing to do so will effectively revoke the flexibility. The priority is to drive local employment and then to source skilled people from foreign nations. The iron grip on immigration would continue to remain as the present population growth rate augurs well for the economy. The unemployment rate in Singapore has risen to 2.1% in 2017 from 1.8% in 2016. This needs to be addressed through 2018 before filling up vacancies with foreign manpower.

About the Author

Morris Edwards is a content writer at, he writes different topics like New Office Will Prepare Singapore for Increasingly-digital Society,  8 tips on securing an employment pass in Singaporeand all topics related to doing Business in Singapore. If you need Singapore Company Formation Servicesvisit our website.

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