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500 companies on MOM's watch list for not doing enough to hire, groom S'poreans

SINGAPORE — Some 500 companies have been placed on a government watch list for not doing enough to hire Singaporeans, double the 250 on the list this time last year, said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say on Monday (March 5) as he warned that such firms will be taken to task.

Job applicants at a career fair in April 2017. Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said some companies have "pre-conceived ideas" that local professionals, managers and executives are "either unable or unwilling to do the job". TODAY File Photo

Job applicants at a career fair in April 2017. Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said some companies have "pre-conceived ideas" that local professionals, managers and executives are "either unable or unwilling to do the job". TODAY File Photo

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SINGAPORE — Some 500 companies have been placed on a government watch list for not doing enough to hire Singaporeans, double the 250 on the list this time last year, said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say on Monday (March 5) as he warned that such firms will be taken to task.

Speaking in Parliament during the Committee of Supply debate on his ministry's budget, Mr Lim said these companies have the "pre-conceived ideas" that local professionals, managers and executives (PMETs) are "either unable or unwilling to do the job".

"So they write them off without even considering them fairly ... Their Employment Pass applications are subjected to additional scrutiny," the minister added.

Addressing the same issue in March last year, Mr Lim said then that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) had placed 250 companies on the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) watch list. The firms were from the information and communication technology, professional services, and financial and insurance activities industries, among others.

Under the FCF, which was implemented in August 2014, rules were put in place to ensure that firms consider locals for job openings. Being placed on the watch list means that the MOM will scrutinise these firms’ EP applications more closely.

Mr Lim noted that a total of 1,900 EP applications made by the 500 companies on the watch list have been withheld or rejected by the ministry, or withdrawn by the companies.

So far, 150 companies have improved their human resource practices and "exited" from the watch list. Some 60 of the remaining 350 companies have not been cooperative, Mr Lim said on Monday.

As a result, MOM has curtailed their work pass privileges, which means they cannot make any new employment pass applications as well as renew existing employment passes until they “adopt fair human resource practices”.

“We will continue to fight this win-lose mindset,” said Mr Lim. “Because it results in a waste of our precious human capital.”

MOM declined to disclose details of the uncooperative companies when asked. "Our focus is to help firms improve their human resource practices. In this way, we can exit them from the Watchlist, and they will also give fair consideration to Singaporean PMETs," said a spokesperson.

For firms that have been placed on the Watchlist, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) engages the firms one-on-one to identify gaps and works with the firms to ensure that they put in place fair consideration practices.

These include efforts to attract and consider all candidates for job positions on merit, and train their employees to develop their careers and potential fairly on merit, regardless of nationality. Tafep will provide an assessment of the firms’ efforts and outcomes to MOM, said the spokesperson.

The MOM will beef up requirements under the FCF to help local PMETs gain access to more and better jobs.  

To this end, the ministry will expand from July this year the FCF requirements for advertisements for new jobs to include companies with at least 10 employees, as well as for job positions with a fixed monthly salary of up to S$15,000, up from S$12,000 currently.

Currently, firms with fewer than 25 employees are exempted from complying with the framework, which requires employers to advertise job vacancies on the national Jobs Bank — managed by Workforce Singapore — for at least 14 days before submitting employment pass applications.

“These changes will ensure that the FCF job advertising requirement keeps pace with income changes, and that the local workforce continues to be fairly considered for job opportunities,” said MOM.

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