EP application process will be refined to strengthen S’porean core: Lim Swee Say

Office workers in Singapore’s Central Business District. Photo: Reuters

The process for Employment Pass (EP) applications required for foreign professionals to work in Singapore will be refined to strengthen the Singaporean core across industries, announced Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say in Parliament on Friday (8 April).

On top of individual assessments - which look into qualifications, work experience and salary - the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will also assess the companies which the applicants will be working for.

The company-related assessment, which will be carried out by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment (TAFEP), will study three main aspects of each company, looking at:

1. Whether the company has a weak Singaporean core according to industrial norms;

2. Whether the company is strengthening its Singaporean core for the future;

3. Whether the company is relevant to Singapore’s economy, based on consultations with economic agencies.

If a company fails to meet the three TAFEP expectations, it will be regarded as a “triple weak” company, and the applicant will not be granted an EP.

Lim added that TAFEP has served notices to 100 firms with weak Singaporean cores. He also noted that the number of EPs granted in Singapore has fallen from 32,000 in 2011 to just 9,000 in 2015.

“There’s a perception among some Singaporeans that, ‘Why am I a minority in my workplace, working here in Singapore? … I think the answer is because of what I call, pockets of EP concentration. In some companies, in some segments of the industry… this is highly undesirable.

“These pockets of EP concentration have led to the perception of liberal intake of EP (holders), which is not the case,” said Lim.

Strengthening the Singaporean core of businesses here is one of the themes of the labour policies that MOM will be implementing this year, with the other two being support for a manpower-lean industry and strengthening global competitiveness.

Going sector by sector

Lim said that the MOM will implement its sectoral manpower plan to identify skills needed to support transformations in the industry.

The ministry will also extend is Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) to more sectors, including the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors, Lim said.

A total of 600 PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) have applied for the PCP this year, an increase from the 370 applications received each year in the past, said the minister.

Under the Place-and-Train Programme, which works with industrial players to match workers’ skills with the right job positions, it has helped to find jobs for 11,000 rank and file workers in the last year.