Mr Leon Perera (Aljunied):
Mr Chairman, Sir, there are economic benefits to retaining migrant workers in our economy who are familiar with Singapore and to increase their productivity, which would mean we need to employ fewer.
Currently, a Work Permit holder can only transfer to a new job with employers’ consent. An exception is the Retention Scheme, which gives eligible workers 30 days to match with a new employer. I support the thrust of this scheme, which is similar to what Workers’ Party Members have called for. But it does not go far enough, as it does not apply to all Work Permit Holders, or WPHs. I call for it to be extended to all WPHs.
In addition, if their existing employer cancels their work permit through no fault of the worker, the worker should be allowed to stay in Singapore for 30 days to enable him to find a new employer, regardless of whether his employer consents. The worker will be responsible for his own food and lodging during this time. He can elect between joining the Retention Scheme, if eligible, or relying on this window.
An article by NGO TWC2 states that many workers had their work permits cancelled and were repatriated because their employers had no work but did not allow them to transfer jobs, even though other companies needed workers, worsening the manpower shortage. The 30-day transfer window addresses this. This proposal will not encourage turnover of workers because it only applies if the employer unilaterally decides to cancel a Work Permit.
Second, to grow productivity and incentivise Work Pass holders to stay with employers, I propose allowing employers to bond them for up to two years in exchange for sponsoring formal training. The length of the bond period can depend on number of training hours, provided that the duration of training and fees meet certain requirements. ITE could partner BCA, which already runs training courses, to develop appropriate courses to increase our migrant worker productivity.
Sir, upskilling is important in reducing the number of semi-skilled foreign workers needed and, hence, our dependence on foreign labour.
4 March 2022
Ministry of Manpower