5 Trends on Singapore’s Immigration Policies

In recent years, the Singapore government has placed more emphasis on people’s interest by providing more priority and advantages to locals over foreigners. As quoted by Minister Josephine Teo, “Our fundamental objective is always to serve the interests of Singaporean workers. Access to foreign workers is meant to help grow a larger economic pie than we otherwise can. Therefore, the foreign workforce must act as a complement to our local workforce.” In the last four years, there have been several changes in the immigration policies that have caused an uproar of uncertainty for many foreigners. 

  • Increased Salary requirements for E pass, S pass and Financial Service Sector 

In conjunction to mediate the rising retrenchment and competition for jobs between the local and foreign employees, the salaries adjustments of the S-pass, E-pass and Financial Service workers were implemented as of August 2020 by the Ministry Of Manpower. The new salaries requirements are as stated in the table below. This latest measure encourages a fair hiring practice in this challenging economic climate – providing an equal opportunity for all job seekers. Additionally, the Fair Consideration Framework ensures that all employer’s job advertisements have to be posted on the career@gov platform for more than 28 days to ensure that local talents are equally aware of the job opportunities. Of which, this would further highlight the competitiveness in the current job market. 

Photo Credits: CNA (Channel News Asia) 

  • Increase Salary Requirements for work pass holders to bring over their dependents 

As at last June, there were about 1.1 million work pass holders here, excluding foreign domestic workers. The declining trend of dependent pass holders were attributed from the progressively increment of threshold implemented. The Strait-times has suggested that this would account for about 1% (11,000) of dependent holders as of June 2020. Following the recent increase in the qualifying salaries for the EP and SP, it is not surprising that the DP and LTVP thresholds might follow suit based on the historical trends as seen in the chart below. The current qualifying salaries for the DP and LTVP are S$6,000 and S$12,000 per month and took effect from 1 January 2018.  The revision showed a 20% jumped in each year respectively from 2015 and 2017. As such, the increased salary requirement will make it more challenging for companies who plan to employ foreign workers with dependents.

  • Dependent Pass has to apply a work pass to qualify their eligibility work in Singapore 

New and effectively updated legislation in ICA has imposed that all dependent pass holders of spouses and family members of foreigners working in Singapore must obtain a work pass before working in Singapore as of May 2021.  Dependent pass (DP) holders who previously leveraged on the letter of consent to work in Singapore must transit to the new arrangement or cease working. The effect includes those who are existing business owners where they must hold more than 30 percent of the share in the business and provide employment opportunities to at least one Singaporean Permanent Resident while contributing CPF. The new arrangement might cause the loss of jobs and livelihood for many or even affect some businesses. 

  • Lower Foreign Job Quota in the Manufacturing Sector

In the budget 2019, Minister Heng also mentioned, “Relying on more and more foreign workers is not the long-term solution — other economies are developing too”.  As reported in the recent news, Singapore is also keen to moderate its reliance on foreign labour while still drawing frontier investments into the manufacturing sector. Thus the government body will be reducing the S-Pass quotas for foreign workers in the manufacturing sector from 20 per cent to 15 per cent by January 2023. As the unemployment rate soared to 4.1 percent in 2020, the government is also keen to protect the livelihood of its people.

  • Capability Development Programme to Up-skill Singaporeans 

Singapore’s manufacturing sector contributes to about 21 per cent of the GDP annually ($106 billion) and created about 450,000 jobs over the years. With the main intention to preserve and grow some key industry clusters such as the manufacturing sector, electronics, biomedical sciences, pharmaceuticals, logistics, transport and engineering industries, the government is determined to provide more initiative to attract more Singaporeans into the sector. 

The ultimate vision of being a global advanced manufacturing hub requires a highly skilled local core workforce that focuses on upskilling and skill transferring programmes to ensure that our people are equipped with vast knowledge to move forward. Based on government statistics, the sector has also been actively employing about 1.8 million Singaporeans and permanent residents 15 years old and older as of 2018 June. The wage credit scheme and sg-united programmes are examples of initiatives in which the government is willing to fund a certain wage percentage to tide through the current year.