The Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has recently announced that various measures will be put into place to ensure that companies provide fair employment opportunities to Singaporeans. These measures include introducing additional "company-related" criteria in the work pass application process, as well as enhancing the role of the Tripartite Alliance of Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) in ensuring that companies are developing a "Singaporean Core".

Additional "company-related" work pass application criteria

The Employment of Foreign Manpower Regulations requires companies to take "reasonable efforts to provide fair employment opportunities to citizens of Singapore, including efforts to attract and consider such citizens for employment or to train them and develop their careers and potential in the workforce". To ensure that companies are making such efforts, the MOM has refined the work pass application process, and introduced the following additional "companyrelated" criteria that will be taken into account in assessing work pass applications:

  1. how strong the "Singaporean Core" is in the company;
  2. if the company has a weak "Singaporean Core", whether it has a commitment to nurture and strengthen this in the future; and
  3. how relevant the company is to Singapore's economy and society.

These three additional criteria are intended to target what the MOM terms "triple weak" companies: companies with a weak "Singaporean Core", a weak commitment to nurturing a "Singaporean Core" and a weak economic and social impact to Singapore. Such companies can expect to face greater scrutiny from TAFEP in its enhanced role.

TAFEP's enhanced role

The MOM currently works in partnership with TAFEP to ensure that Singaporeans are not discriminated against in hiring. TAFEP's capabilities will now be enhanced beyond promotional work; under the refined work pass application process, TAFEP will be responsible for assessing the additional "company-related" criteria announced by the MOM. At TAFEP's recommendation, "triple weak" companies may be put on a watch list, and if such companies do not show progress, their work pass privileges can be suspended.

Support for "triple strong" companies

In keeping with its commitment to develop the Singaporean workforce, the MOM has also announced that it will take proactive steps to identify and partner "triple strong" companies, or companies with a strong "Singaporean Core", a strong commitment to nurture this "Core", and strong economic or social links to Singapore. New support programmes include the Human Capital Partnership (HCP) Programme, to be launched by the MOM later this year, which is intended to help "triple strong" companies nurture and develop local talent into regional and potentially global talent.

What this means for employers

The MOM'S announcement is a timely reminder to companies with operations in Singapore to ensure that they are taking steps to treat Singaporeans fairly in their hiring practices. Greater scrutiny can be expected in the work pass application process as TAFEP steps into its enhanced role in assessing the new "company-related" criteria announced by the MOM. Companies should therefore conduct an assessment of their hiring and staffing practices to ensure that they do not fall foul of the rules.