Singapore to implement scoring system to assess Employment Pass applications

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng speaking in Parliament on 4 March 2022. (SCREENSHOT: Ministry of Communications and Information/YouTube)
Manpower Minister Tan See Leng speaking in Parliament on 4 March 2022. (SCREENSHOT: Ministry of Communications and Information/YouTube)

SINGAPORE — The government will introduce a new point-based scoring system that will comprehensively evaluate Employment Pass (EP) applicants, said Manpower Minister Tan See Leng on Friday (4 March).

Called the Complementarity Assessment Framework (Compass), the system will holistically assess the candidates’ complementarity by looking at both individual- and firm-related attributes, Tan said at the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) Committee of Supply debate in Parliament.

With the introduction of Compass, the future EP framework will comprise two stages. Applicants must meet the EP qualifying salary in the first stage and they must also score sufficient points under Compass in order to qualify for an EP in the second stage.

Compass is designed to be balanced and reasonable, Tan said. MOM will publish the Compass scoring information on its website after the announcement, he added.

“For employers, they will find that the system is responsive to industry's needs and easier to navigate with a transparent, predictable and clear framework. It also recognises their efforts to build up a strong local pipeline and maintain a diverse foreign workforce. For local workforce, they will have greater confidence that the EP holders here are of a high calibre.”

As the introduction of Compass is a significant change and companies will need sufficient time to adjust, it will come into effect for new EP applications from 1st September 2023, and for renewal applications from first September 2024, Tan added.

At his Budget 2022 speech on 18 February, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong announced that Singapore will raise the minimum qualifying salary for new EPs from the current $4,500 to $5,000. For the financial services sector, which has higher salary norms, this will be raised from the current $5,000 to $5,500.

The qualifying salaries for older EP applicants, which increase progressively with age, will also be raised in tandem.

The changes to the qualifying salary will take effect for new EP applications on 1 September 2022, and for renewal applications on 1 September 2023.

Criteria for EP assessment

Under Compass, EP applications will be assessed based on four foundational criteria or C1 to C4. These are the candidate’s salary relative to local professional, managerial, executive, and technical (PMET) wages in their respective sectors, the candidate’s qualifications, the firm's national diversity and whether the candidate improves the firm's national diversity, and the firm's support for local employment compared to their industry peers.

In addition, Tan said the authorities are mindful of two scenarios that warrant special attention. One is where EP candidates possess skills that Singapore’s workforce is facing shortage, such as artificial intelligence developers and cybersecurity specialists. The other scenario is whether the firm is undertaking an ambitious innovation hub or internationalisation activities in partnership with the government.

“In such cases, it would be in Singapore's interest to allow the firm to bring in this candidate. So we will accord bonus points for these two areas,” said Tan, adding that the criteria will be classified as C5 and C6.

Tan assured Members of Parliament that Compass is not designed to make it harder for businesses to obtain an EP. Most applications today would not have issues to fulfill the criteria. Some firms, however, would need to make adjustments on Compass accordingly, Tan added.

For smaller firms, their workforce ratios can change significantly with only a few personnel changes. As such, firms with less than 25 PMETs will automatically be scored as meeting expectations on firm-related attributes, Tan said.

Compass is considered as part of MOM’s fair consideration framework (FCF) watchlist, according to Tan. Once Compass is fully rolled out, the FCF watchlist will be repurposed to focus on engaging businesses that score poorly on firm-related attributes, he added.

Even with the changes to the FCF watch list, MOM continues to take fair consideration seriously and that the FCF job advertising requirements will continue to apply, Tan assured.

“Employers must practise fair consideration in their selection of candidates and MOM will not hesitate to take action against employers who are found to be discriminatory. We are also working on plans to enshrine existing fair employment guidelines into workplace fairness legislation.”

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