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Covid-19: Six-month scheme to allow manufacturing, services firms hire existing Chinese work permit holders in Singapore

SINGAPORE — For six months from March 2, companies in the manufacturing and services sectors will be able to hire work permit holders from China who are already in Singapore, without having to wait for them to exit the country first.

Workers undergoing training at engineering and skill training firm Wong Fong Industries on Feb 25, 2020.

Workers undergoing training at engineering and skill training firm Wong Fong Industries on Feb 25, 2020.

SINGAPORE — For six months from March 2, companies in the manufacturing and services sectors will be able to hire work permit holders from China who are already in Singapore, without having to wait for them to exit the country first.

Right now, the law allows companies in these two sectors to hire Chinese work permit holders only after they have left Singapore. This is because when work pass holders leave a company, their work permit must be cancelled and they must leave the country, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) stated on its website. 

MOM said in a statement on Tuesday (Feb 25) that it has partnered the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) to introduce this temporary measure to give companies in the two sectors more flexibility to manage their manpower needs amid the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak. 

“Companies facing a shortage of manpower can save on search and recruitment expenses. At the same time, companies that have excess manpower can provide their workers with an opportunity to continue working in Singapore and save on repatriation costs,” it said.

MOM and SBF will facilitate the transfer of Chinese work permit holders between companies in the same sector.

Companies in the construction, process and marine sectors are already allowed to hire such workers before they exit Singapore. The latest move extends the scheme to manufacturing and service companies.

SBF's chief executive officer Ho Meng Kit said: “This initiative will benefit all parties — companies that require additional workers to meet their business needs, companies that are looking to release their workers, and workers who find themselves displaced due to the Covid-19 outbreak.”

Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, assistant director-general of the National Trades Union Congress, said that there are some small- and medium-sized enterprises that have a surplus of manpower now and other companies who have workers who are unable to return to China.

“We are also mindful that some of these workers may still be paying off their loans, so this move would give them a chance to continue to work,” he added.

The scheme is extended to all companies in the manufacturing and services sector, and not just to SBF members. 

Interested companies can approach SBF and it will help employers looking to release their Chinese work permit holders connect with other employers who are experiencing a shortage of manpower. 

Companies can only hire or transfer existing Chinese work permit holders within the same sector. 

Should a connection be made, SBF will inform MOM and the hiring company can submit a work permit application to the ministry. 

Mr Jack Wong, chief financial officer of engineering and skill training firm Wong Fong Industries, said that his company would ”definitely” be tapping the scheme, but said that he would still face the challenge of training new workers in a short span of time. 

The firm has 13 Chinese work permit holders still in China, out of a total of close to 300 workers, who are primarily Chinese nationals and Malaysians. Though he cannot provide any figures, he told reporters on Tuesday that the company “does feel a drop” in production. 

“(The scheme) helps in the overall management of the business. But of course, you will take some time to bring these (new) workers up to speed.” 

He said that it can take at least three months to train a worker from the same industry, which would eat into the duration of the six-month scheme. 

“Those from the same sector, if they are trained properly, they will need less (time to train), but there are certain skill sets they still need to conform to, such as safety.” 

Related topics

MOM China manufacturing services work permit Covid-19 Wuhan virus coronavirus

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