Singapore may be a global hub for business, but the city-state’s Ministry of Manpower (MoM) is keen to ensure that employers consider Singaporeans fairly for local jobs when recruiting. And currently, there are nearly 300 companies placed on a government watchlist for not doing so, a ministry spokesperson told People Management.

This number, according to the spokesperson, is still a “minority”, with the “majority of companies” – local as well as international – playing by the rules.

Nevertheless, minority wrongdoers will be closely watched. The Fair Consideration Framework Watchlist, introduced by the MoM in 2016, “discourages unfair recruitment”, the spokesperson said. Instead, it promotes the hiring of a foreign workforce that complements and strengthens the local labour force, rather than undermines it.

Strengthening the local core with global talent is a top priority for Singapore’s minister of manpower, Lim Swee Say. “In the future global economy, for us to stay ahead, we will need to make every job a better job throughout the economy, make every worker a better worker throughout the workforce. But more than that, we should also strive to nurture many more of our local talents into global talents, or ‘Glocal talents’ in short,” minister Lim has said.

Prior to introducing the watchlist, in 2013 the ministry brought in what it called a ‘Fair Consideration Framework’ setting out clear expectations for companies. Under this, employers who are submitting employment pass (EP) applications to the MoM had to first advertise their job vacancies on government–run training agency Workforce Singapore’s jobs bank.

Every vacancy should be open to Singaporeans and offered for at least 14 calendar days before a company submits an EP application, according to a ministry note. All companies operating in Singapore are also required to comply with the government’s Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices that promote an “open, merit-based and non-discriminatory” recruitment process.

Jeffrey Ng, director at recruitment firm Michael Page Singapore, agreed that ensuring all job vacancies are listed in the jobs bank and made visible on major online job portals is key to the success of a local employment promotion policy. But he argued it is equally important to “involve in-company HR representatives from the beginning of the recruitment process” as they generally have set practices to attract Singaporeans or permanent residents to organisations.

The majority of organisations in Singapore that Michael Page works with are committed to developing local talent and will limit a first round of interviews to Singaporeans or permanent residents before expanding the search to non-resident foreigners. “On average they spend around two weeks interviewing just Singaporeans or permanent residents before widening the parameters to include foreigners,” he said.

Ng said organisations that would like to better support the Fair Consideration Framework should “invest more time combing the Singaporean talent pool wider and deeper before considering foreigners”.

And the MoM is rewarding such companies, added the ministry spokesperson: “We have recognised 130 progressive employers through our Human Capital Partnership Programme, which is aiming to build a strong labour force while ensuring foreign skills are transferred to locals.” The ministry is supporting such employers “proactively with relevant grants and incentives” to further develop their employees, the spokesperson said, adding it will continue to work towards widening this band of progressive employers.

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