Singapore hikes qualifying salaries amid foreign-local talent competition: report

Government's looking to encourage big firms to attract, develop Singapore's local talent, say experts

Singapore hikes qualifying salaries amid foreign-local talent competition: report

Singapore's move to increase the qualifying salary for Employment Pass holders is the government's response to brewing concerns of foreign talent taking jobs away from locals, according to experts.

The government announced last month that the Employment Pass (EP) qualifying salary for foreign candidates would go up from $5,000 to $5,600 per month, increasing progressively with age to up to $10,700 for employees in their mid-40s.

Walter Theseira, an associate professor and labour economist at the Singapore University for Social Sciences (SUSS), told Al Jazeera that the Employment Pass scheme was meant to import highly skilled employees from overseas.

However, the scheme has since expanded and became prevalent in the middle of the market, prompting competition concerns among Singapore's local employees, according to Theseira.

"So, the government responded by re-calibrating the EP again upwards, so that based on salaries, it now targets more clearly the high-end."

Sid Suhas, the senior vice president and head of EMEA & APAC at Cielo, also told Al Jazeera that the increase would likely nudge larger employers to focus on attracting, developing, and nurturing local talent.

Suhas said the limit on hiring foreign talent for specific roles was "inevitable."

"In the past, foreign talent had the opportunity to develop their careers in Singapore across various roles but now, the focus will likely be on senior and niche positions," Suhas told the news outlet.

Foreign talent competition

The Ministry of Manpower previously cited maintaining a "high quality and complementary" workforce and creating better jobs for locals as reasons for the increase in EP qualifying salary.

It comes amid growing concerns that foreign employees are taking away jobs from local candidates. In 2023, non-residents made up 83,500 of the 88,400 total employment growth in Singapore.

But the ministry assured that Singapore's resident unemployment rate and long-term unemployment rate remained "very low."

The high share of non-resident employment was also due to an increase in holders of Work Permits and other Work Passes in sectors such as construction, according to the ministry.

"These are not typically the type of jobs that Singaporeans want to do," MOM said.

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