Under Singapore’s Fair Consideration Framework (FCF), all firms must consider Singaporeans fairly for job opportunities. This was highlighted by the case of Prime Gold International who were barred from hiring foreign workers for two years after it was found to have discriminated against Singaporeans (Prime Gold had laid off 13 Singaporeans, who were working as ship captains, officers, engineers and seamen, and hired foreigners in their place).
Our view is that this is exactly the sort of practice the legislation was intended to deal with and is the right thing to do.
The big concern however is highlighted by a poll carried out by SeaShip News in which 77% of respondents said the local talent pool in Singapore was not large enough or of high enough quality, while 53% of voters found current work restrictions on foreigners were affecting their businesses. 59% of readers said the government had not been effective in getting more people interested in a maritime career.
(The poll formed a core part of SeaShip News’ annual Singapore magazine. The full 60-page special can be accessed for free here).
This clearly shows where the problem lies for most employers. Despite the government pushing for local talent to fill local jobs, the currently available talent pool doesn’t support the level of demand. A lack of graduates wanting to join the maritime community and a rapidly growing maritime sector has left an employment gap.
Many companies look to foreign talent to fill the gap but due to government policy there are significant administrative headwinds in this respect.
To hire from overseas an employment pass (EP) is required and companies making new EP applications must advertise the job vacancy on the Jobs Bank administered by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA). The advertisement must be open to Singaporeans, comply with the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, and run for at least 14 calendar days. These requirements must be met before an EP application is submitted to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). These new rules came into effect on 1 August 2014. You must also apply for an EP within 3 months of closing an advertisement on the Jobs Bank
(There are two main exceptions to the Jobs Bank: Small firms with 25 or fewer employees; or jobs that pay a fixed monthly salary of $12,000 and above do not have to post on The Jobs Bank.)
There are also no guarantees that an EP will be granted. There is a preference for degree holders and those from Tier 1 countries including USA, Australia, Europe and Malaysia. Those who are existing EP holders are given preference and companies operating successfully for longer than three years have an advantage over start-ups. New companies can benefit from having a large paid up capital to demonstrate to MOM that they have liquidity to pay salaries.
This can all be time consuming and often difficult to navigate for employers. However the problems don’t just relate to hiring foreign talent and can perhaps be summed up as follows:
- For junior roles the Goldman Sachs effect (i.e. grads only wanting to go into finance jobs) means it is hard to find (and keep) entry level talent
- For mid level roles the local talent pool is not wide enough and the restrictions on hiring from overseas are most acute at this level
- For senior roles there are not many restrictions on hiring from overseas BUT the employers themselves are much less willing in the current environment to provide expat benefits. This is further exacerbated by the rising cost of living in Singapore that prompts candidates to insist on these benefits to consider a role. This results in employers looking within the local senior talent pool in Singapore which is still under supplied.
In summary, it’s a classic case of too much demand and not enough supply – something the shipping industry knows only too well. If you’d like to know more about our recruitment in Singapore, please get in touch with our Strategic Relationship Manager, Eric Branson (pictured right) at EBranson@spinnaker-global.com