DOLE chief allays fears over Singapore foreign worker policy

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Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz on Wednesday allayed fears that Filipino workers would no longer be welcome in Singapore after the city-state imposed limits on foreign workers.

Baldoz said despite the new restrictions on foreign workers in Singapore, its business community continues to favor employing foreign workers likes overseas Filipino workers.

“The Singapore government has amended its Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA) in July 2012 restricting the entry of foreign workers due to a policy shift. But this does not mean foreigners will no longer be permitted into Singapore to work,” Baldoz said in a statement.

“On the contrary, the Singapore business sector has made its position known favoring the employment of more foreign workers, notwithstanding the restrictive policies of the Singapore government,” she added.

Baldoz said Filipino workers who want to find jobs in Singapore must also understand that the new policy of the country applies to all foreign workers and not just against Filipinos.

“I believe our OFWs have established themselves in niche markets that cannot readily be replaced,” Baldoz said.

“Be that as it may, we at the DOLE are prepared with our reintegration programs for the few OFWs who may be affected by the foreign worker reduction policy,” she added.

Baldoz said she received a report from Philippine Labor Attache to Singapore Vicente Cabe, who noted that the island-state’s government released a population ‘white paper’ in January admitting that Singapore will continue to need a significant number of foreign workers to complement the Singaporean core in its workforce.

The paper hastened to add, however, that it cannot allow an unlimited number of foreign workers to overwhelm the total population, Baldoz said.

She said the “white paper” projected that the entry of foreign workers will slow down, but made it clear that certain groups of workers will continue to be filled up by foreigners.

They include health-care and elder-care workers because of Singapore’s aging population; foreigners doing routine and low-skilled jobs in construction, retail, and food services; and highly-skilled and professionals with cutting-edge skills and abilities, Baldoz said.

“As of 1 July 2012, the Ministry of Manpower has reduced the dependency ratio ceilings (DRCs), which is the percentage of foreign workers allowed in a particular company, in varying degrees depending on the sector concerned,” Cabe said.

He said that in the services sector, the DRC was reduced from 50 percent to 45 percent, while in the manufacturing sector, the DRC was reduced from 65 percent to 60 percent.

He further said the issuance of work passes was divided into three categories: work permits for workers belonging to the low and semi-skilled categories with a salary below SG$2,000; S-passes for mid-level skilled workers with a salary of at least SG$2,000; and professionals and managerial workers under employment pass (E-pass) whose salaries are at least SG$3,000 and above with sub-categories under this group.

In the S-pass category, the sub-DRC for all sectors has been reduced from 25 percent to 20 percent, Cabe said.

The Department of Labor and Employment said Singapore’s foreign manpower quota reduction was a reversal of the policy announced in 2011 about the country’s need to hire foreign workers to support the growth targets of the manufacturing and services sectors and to sustain overall economic growth.

“At that time, it was estimated that some 100,000 foreign workers may be needed to augment the demand for more workers,” DOLE said.

“However, political developments in the country brought about by the elections in 2012 caused the policy shift in the entry of foreign workers because of the complaints of Singapore workers,” it added.

DOLE said Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower has required employers of foreign workers to pay a monthly levy, which has been increased, to discourage employers from hiring foreign workers.

It added that the levy was seen as a way to “equalize or make it more expensive to employ foreign workers whose salaries are lower compared to local workers whose salaries are generally higher.”

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  • fjy_awh

    SINGAPORE: Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said the government will not be changing its decision on the tightening of foreign manpower policies for the foreseeable future.

    The focus he said is to help companies ease off their dependence on foreign labour and succeed in the adjustment process.

    Mr Tan was speaking at a recording of Channel NewsAsia’s programme “Ask Minister”.
    He said: “I think I need to be quite definitive here, so that the signal is clear.

    For some time, the industry was thinking that government will make a U-turn. Therefore, the changes (the government hoped to achieve) did not quite happen. (Businesses) were hoping that if the pressure was high enough, we will make adjustments. As a result of that, the propensity to change the way we do things was not so significant.”

    In fact, the various powerful business groups have been doing exactly this i.e. putting pressure on the government hoping that they will relent and loosen the flow of foreign labour into Singapore like in the past.

    In February 2013, 9 foreign chambers of commerce in Singapore wrote a joint open letter to Mr Tan to show their “concerns” with the revision of government policies pertaining to the employment of foreign workers in Singapore.

    Mr Tan said should affected companies close down, assistance will be provided to them and their workers to find alternatives.

    Going forward, Mr Tan said the government is looking for a leaner manpower set-up and businesses which depend on cheap labour should rethink how their businesses are run.

    “We need to rethink the way we do business in sectors where we depend on low-wage, cheaper labour. We need to rethink – either the way we do business and the way we operate. Perhaps some of these sectors may not be quite relevant after all,” he said.
    Wage growth will be another focus in the next couple of years.

    Mr Tan said he is “very uncomfortable with the fact” that some of the wages of low wage workers have remained quite stagnant for some time.

    He pointed that the government has already enhanced the Workfare programmes and adjusted the CPF contributions.

    He said more will be done to put in place progressive work practices in industries such as security and cleaning.

    “We are looking at restructuring, and for progressive work practices to be put in place. Structurally, we hope to see wages move up, augmented by the different measures to support inclusive growth,” he said.

    As the economy restructures, Mr Tan said the aim is to provide Singaporeans at all levels with good opportunities and good jobs.

  • cabcog

    I don’t agree that SG is zero corruption. SG is less corrupt because the gov’t was able to send corrupt officials to jail, thus, minimize would be perpetrators. Also, the gov’t is more transparent and officials are well paid (e.g. prime minister receives more than $1M annual compensation and such is published). What works well for SG is because its small and its citizen complies with clear rules and laws compared for example with our tax laws.

    The form of government is authoritarian which will probably best suit our nation coupled with leaders who are trustworthy and competent. We have enough laws and the gov’t just need to implement them properly. The gov’t should also get rid of corrupt officials and politicians.

    Based on my experience, Filipinos need to be supervised more often and if not, they will not work efficiently who unlike, most singaporeans, do their work as expected no matter how menial job they have.

    What is funny in our country is that politicians get rich when they elected instead of the other way around. I believe that if they serve the country right; they will instead get poor because what they suppose to earn is not even enough to pay their basic necessities and as officials, it demands their full time and consequently, they should have no time to mend their private businesses rendering them broke in the long run (those I believe got rich are the Enriles, Estradas, Binays and other trapos who find politics as their source of wealth).

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