Foreign workers (passes) decreased: Really?


Foreign workers on passes “increased”, instead of “decreased”?

I refer to the article “Retrenchments at 5-year low, job vacancies on the rise: Manpower Ministry” (Straits Times, Jun 14).

It states that “But it has remained difficult for some groups of people to get back into a job.

The re-entry rate for residents in the first quarter – which is the share of residents who were laid off in the third quarter of last year and found work within six months – was 61 per cent, lower than 64 per cent in the same quarter last year.”

In this connection, according to the article “Biggest drop in foreigners working in Singapore in 15 years: Manpower Ministry” (Straits Times, Mar 15) – “The number of foreigners working here fell by 32,000 last year, the biggest drop in 15 years, even as more locals were employed.

The fall was more than 10 times the drop of 2,500 in 2016.

As to “While last year’s fall was mostly among work permit holders in the construction and marine shipyard industries, the number of Employment Pass holders also fell by 4,500 – the first decline in at least six years – according to the latest data released by the Ministry of Manpower(MOM) on Thursday (March 15).

The professional services and infocomm technology sectors were the main ones which employed fewer high-skilled foreigners. In tandem, these sectors saw a growth in local employment, noted the ministry.

The shift followed a tightening of foreigner hiring rules in Singapore in recent years” – why is it that “Groups that saw below-average re-entry rates include professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), and those who are 50 and older”?

Well, according to the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) web site – the number of foreign workers on employment and S-Passes did not decrease, but actually increased from 372,000 in 2016 to 372,100 in 2017 – because whilst employments passes decreased from 192,300 to 187,700 – S-Passes increased from 179,700 to 184,400.

Also, “other work passes” increased from 28,300 to 30,700.

It may be interesting to note that ““Other Work Passes” includes Letter of Consent (LOC) and Training Work Permit (TWP). Training Employment Pass (TEP) was included in “Other Work Passes” from March 2014 onwards”.

In addition, according to the article “Population likely to be ‘significantly below’ 6.9m by 2030” (Straits Times, Mar 2) – last year, the number of new citizens and permanent residents (PRs) granted was 22,076 and 31,849, respectively.
So, how much of the local residents’ employment change in the last year and the first quarter of this year were due primarily to foreigners on passes who  were reclassified as resident workers when they became PRs or citizens?

Leong Sze Hian


About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.