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Debate over MOM’s rule change for dependant’s pass holders

Online comments from TODAY readers showed that not many sympathised with the dependant’s pass holders who will have to meet higher requirements such as income level to get a permit or pass to work here. A number lauded the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) for the rule change to not issue Letters of Consent (LOCs) to them for work. However, Singaporeans who hire these dependents of foreign workers spoke up about the difficulties they will face ahead.

Debate over MOM’s rule change for dependant’s pass holders

Online comments from TODAY readers showed that not many sympathised with the dependant’s pass holders who will have to meet higher requirements such as income level to get a permit or pass to work here. A number lauded the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) for the rule change to not issue Letters of Consent (LOCs) to them for work. However, Singaporeans who hire these dependents of foreign workers spoke up about the difficulties they will face ahead.

These were in response to the Voices letter, “Why make it harder for spouses of foreign workers to take up jobs in Singapore?” (March 12) by a research executive at the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), as well as to the news report, “Anxiety grows among foreign spouses due to MOM’s rule change for dependant’s pass holders” (March 14).


I am a Singaporean who hires South Koreans to teach the Korean language. These highly skilled individuals gave up their careers to be with their families. They work because they want to continue to contribute to society and because they are on part-time contracts, they are not paid enough to qualify for S passes. Sure, I can hire permanent residents, but my source of talent pool will shrink and the years of time and effort given to train them and let them have teaching experience would go to waste. Loopholes need to be closed, but MOM should come up with a more intricate policy than just a blanket rule. JAMIE ONG WANN

We hope that the Government will reconsider this new ruling. In view of the harsh economic climate, it is too cruel to deprive them of a living wage. VICTOR ONG

It should not be that the main work pass holder is an entry point for the dependant’s pass holder to secure a job here. The pass is not for the purpose of work but to allow them to be with their family. If the dependents need to work, then they need to follow the same process as the work pass holder. SARAVANAN ALAGAR

This new ruling does not restrict spouses of work pass holders from working here. It only requires them to go through the proper employment framework… I hope that MOM will implement this strictly, not change path or give exceptions under the pressure of various business chambers and organisations like Aware. DESMOND DING NAI RONG

As a trailing spouse, I left my career when we moved to an international assignment in Tokyo (Japan allows dependents to work up to 28 hours a week without additional approvals) and started training to be an artist. I have been working as an artist since 2016 and upon moving to Singapore, I obtained a LOC.

I wish MOM would take into account that some occupations do not allow for a steady monthly income. As an artist with no consistent monthly income, it is impossible for me to satisfy the requirements of work passes. 

Many opportunities are not open to me because I am not a Singaporean or permanent resident. So, the only way I make money is when I sell a painting or host a workshop. 

I am not taking a job from anyone local. I hire a local accountant to help me make sure things are done right by Singapore’s guidelines and requirements, so I am contracting with local people here, too. If my work stops, that contract will also cease. In all things, it is a partnership. RAJUL SHAH

Singaporeans should not be so anti-foreigner. Many of them here are indeed more than qualified to do their jobs. Singapore needs to be pro-business and it's what got Singapore prosperous in the last 50-plus years.

One thing’s for sure: The new rule hasn't changed the fact that dependant’s pass holders are still given an opportunity to work in Singapore. My question is: How many LOCs did MOM issue over the decades to dependant’s pass holders, leaving aside the 11,000 who are now working with such letters? TAN LING CHUI

The Aware writer's point that spouses of foreigner workers are subject to numerous stress and vulnerability may be correct. But while making it easier for these spouses to work here may seem to be a good solution for them, it is not a good solution for Singapore.

There should not be a backdoor to allow foreigners to work in Singapore that does not subject them to the same scrutiny as those applying for employment passes. As it is today, sham marriages have been used by some foreigners to gain residency in Singapore, with the purpose to work here, legally or otherwise. CHEN JUNYI

Glad to see MOM patching up this loophole. Hope it will continue looking out for other loopholes such as fake degrees. TIM HUANG

It’s not totally correct to say that dependant’s pass holders are free riders because some of the jobs they take up are not easy to fill. For example, Chinese teachers in kindergartens. The change in rule will make it tougher to employ them but it does not mean that more Singaporeans will be employed. PETER YU

To Aware, please also don’t use "gender" to cloud the issue. There are female talents who have spousal dependents as well. As for those who argue that "Singaporeans" are not able to fill these positions, that is a sweeping statement. Society and economic environment evolve all the time. The businesses have to adapt and go with the policy changes. SK TAN

What we should really be asking is: How did the LOC come about in the first place? Who was involved in such policies? RAYMOND THAM

I am a Singaporean with a Taiwanese expat wife. Due to the pandemic, I was retrenched and my wife was forced to work. She has just started working for about half a year now with an LOC. But the rule change will really hit us even more as we are barely surviving and my wife's due to deliver in July. 

I hope Aware can help us out and point us in a direction of hope. I'm afraid that I might also end up leaving Singapore and working overseas, which I strongly discourage because this is our home. SIE TOON YEOW

(Clarification: According to the Ministry of Manpower, immediate family members of Singapore citizens and permanent residents, foreign spouses and children on long term visit passes will continue to be eligible for a LOC or pre-approved LOC (PLOC) to work in Singapore.  These LOC/PLOC holders will not be subjected to foreign worker quotas, levies or qualifying salaries.)

I welcome this policy fine-tuning. I don't see why some employers should enjoy a lower business cost just because they employ dependant's pass holders on LOCs. (Is this the policy intent?). BRIAN TAN

So we have 11,000 dependant’s pass holders doing part-time work mainly? What are the types of work that they do? The more pertinent question should be why employers prefer to hire them over locals. Nothing against work, or the person, just that some answers and details would be most welcomed. DAVID WONG

This is not about gender or even fairness. If one is good in the trade, it wouldn’t be an issue to convert to work passes. SAM KOH

Well done, MOM. If their skills are really so unique and critical, the dependant’s pass holders have nothing to worry about. MARGARET CHONG

Maybe we can tweak a little and make it something like Farm Work Australia, whereby we only allow — under strict conditions — these dependant’s pass holders to work in selected labour-intensive industries such as nursing, teaching, food retail and so on, where it’s harder to find locals to do so. STEVEN ZHIDA

My employees on LOCs don’t make enough a month for me to get an employment pass for them. There is a minimum threshold to meet and it’s only getting higher and higher. These employees of mine never make more than S$5,000 a month, averaging S$2,500 to S$3,800.

Their degrees were completed 25 years ago and are not relevant to their expertise. Many have since invested and studied years in therapy or certified in other areas. You must understand there are jobs for people with diverse talents and experience whom I cannot find in Singapore.

These jobs are not mainstream, for example, an advanced scoliosis therapist, a pilates rehab specialist. This will hurt Singaporeans too, when such specialists can’t work anymore.

It’s currently a blanket ban and will affect so many Singapore businesses such as language centres looking for translators. Where are you going to find a part-time Finnish translator?

MOM will definitely be hearing from scores of business owners. We barely survived Covid-19 and are now faced with losing valuable talent that can no way be replaced with domestic talent. TERESA WOO

Sometimes, when they come over on a dependant’s pass, some of them are granted allowances from the spouse’s company as well. If you ever have the opportunity to look at their packages, it often includes housing allowances, spouse allowances, sometimes with skills upgrading allowances and even education expenses for the children and all the levies paid by the company. These are on top of the high salaries they earn as expats. So is there a need to earn more if allowances are given? KELLY FAITH TAN

Quoted from the article: “Being wholly dependent on their husband for their right to stay in Singapore is already an disempowering experience in itself." Would it also not be a form of empowerment if the women could work on their own merits or ability to obtain an employment pass?

While it may sound callous, I honestly do not think dependant’s pass holders not getting to work will be a big social problem, as compared to the consequences of locals not getting work. CHERYCE SHANDY RYAIN 

Please do not make gender the issue here. There are Singaporeans who are not competing on the same level as dependant’s pass holders and it is only fair to expect any country to take care of their citizens first. YVONNE WONG

Most of the comments are probably written by people who have never worked abroad and have a limited international experience. Instead of closing the border, better improve your professional qualification to be competitive in the job market. This would better contribute to Singapore’s economy. EKATERINA KUDRYASHOVA

These comments were first posted on TODAY’s Facebook page or emailed to voices [at] They have been edited for clarity, accuracy and length.

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