COS 2022: Employment Pass Framework

MP Pritam Singh

Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied): Thank you, Chairman. Just two questions. One really builds on the point that the Minister spoke about with regard to the support to build a strong Singapore Core, which is I think the substance of this initiative to review the EP qualifying criteria, exemplified by COMPASS. My question really picks off from a point I raised in the previous Budget, in the Committee of Supply debates last year about the Capability Transfer Programme. Just to enquire whether MOM considers in the renewal of the EPs going forward, a contribution of EP or their companies as a bonus criterion, if there has been a real transfer of skills to the Singapore Core? Whether that could be a part of the system structure in renewing EP holders, getting more EP holders into Singapore in areas there clearly is a need?

Because I think this really will address a long-term bugbear that is a perception nonetheless that somehow the foreigners not playing their part in contributing to the growth of the Singapore Core. If there is some data set, some matrix that can show that that is not the case and that actually there is a skills transfer that can be objectively assessed, I think this will be helpful for the programme.

Just another question, dealing with the EP framework. I understand today there are probably about 160,000 to 170,000 EP holders. Under the new qualifying criteria, how many EP holders today would not have been issued with an EP, under the new criteria? So, today, we have got a fixed number. I think it is about 166,000 based on last year’s data. If the new scheme applied today, how many of these individuals would not actually be given their EP? I am just wondering if the Minister has that information.

My final point is a very short one. In his speech this morning, Senior Minister of State Zaqy Mohamad spoke about workers who earn less than $500. I think he made a clarification of the 20,000 figure but I did not catch what the new figure was. I do not believe the Minister shared it. I apologise if he did. But I would be grateful if the Senior Minister of State would share what that number actually is.

Dr Tan See Leng: The short answer to your first point about whether we can consider firms’ support in terms of the local training, the transfers of skillsets, I think as we evolve the framework, we are not closed off to this thinking. At some stage, we will be able to continue to tweak the framework. Of course, we need to ensure that tweaking is not done in such a frequent manner that after a while, companies who want to look into investing into our country itself would think that we are having a series of moving goal posts. That is not the intent. So, the consistency, the constancy of this framework must be preserved.

However, at the fringe, anything that would strengthen it, to see how we can continue to improve our Singaporean Core, the transfer of skill sets, I think would be something that we can consider.

If you talk about comparing with the numbers today, how many would pass the framework, I think it is difficult to compare. Because in terms of, for instance, even at C1, notwithstanding the fact that we have a qualifying salary, even at C1, we measured according to the sector, what is the 65th percentile. So, I think, just off the cuff, finance in general, already you can see that there are two separate categories.

Suffice to say, from now till the next four to five years, when all the renewals of existing applications have been taken that into consideration, I think that the churn in EP holders would take care of whatever slack that exists together, even if the numbers do not meet the COMPASS framework that we put up today, the churn will take care of that. 

In terms of the perspective, today, on any given year, our churn in EP holders is about 40,000 a year. So, that is the number of new applicants applying to join and people leaving. So, this churn, when put through COMPASS, will more than adequately take care of what we intend to do over the horizon. I hope that sort of gives you a picture of where we envisage we will move to.

Ministry of Manpower
7 March 2022

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