| SINGAPORE, March 5
SINGAPORE, March 5 Alleged bias against locals
accounted for half of the employment-related complaints received
in Singapore last year, in another sign that the city-state may
scrutinise more closely firms which are hiring foreigners to
fill higher-paying jobs.
The data provided to Reuters by the Tripartite Alliance for
Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) comes amid growing unhappiness
among Singaporeans about the surge in foreigners over the past
TAFEP is a body backed by the Ministry of Manpower and
tasked with ensuring fair work practices in the small
island-state, which as a global financial, business and
transport hub attracts hundreds of thousands of higher-paid
Singapore has already taken steps to curb demand for
low-wage, low-skilled foreign workers through higher levies on
companies and tighter quotas, and Acting Manpower Minister Tan
Chuan Jin will discuss in detail plans to help Singaporeans
aspiring for higher-paid jobs when his ministry's budget is
discussed next Thursday or Friday.
The increased vetting of applications to hire skilled
foreigners -- typically those earning more than S$3,000 ($2,400)
a month -- may hit banks such as Citigroup, which has
around 10,000 employees in Singapore. Such hires are exempt from
the levies imposed on firms recruiting lower-cost workers.
"In 2012, about half of the 303 complaints received by TAFEP
were regarding fair opportunities for Singaporeans," a
spokeswoman for the organisation said.
The Ministry of Manpower said in a separate reply to Reuters
that TAFEP will refer unresponsive employers to the ministry,
which will in turn curtail work pass privileges of firms that
did not heed its advice.
TAFEP earlier this week published advertisements in local
newspapers saying it had met senior management at some financial
firms after it got feedback that some supervisors preferred to
hire their own countrymen over Singaporeans.
"A few firms acknowledged that certain departments did seem
to have "hot spots" where clusters of employees from the same
country appeared to have developed over time," the
advertisements said, although TAFEP also cited an example of a
complaint that was not justified.
WHITE COLLAR JOBS
Singapore last month unveiled a budget heavy on social
spending and announced new curbs on companies hiring foreign
workers as the city-state tries to reduce its dependence on
overseas labour and address a widening income gap.
In budget debate earlier this week, several lawmakers from
the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) voiced concerns about
locals being denied a fair shot at white collar jobs.
Liang Eng Hwa, a member of Parliament who is also a managing
director at DBS Group, questioned the large number of
foreigners holding managerial positions in areas such as human
resources, auditing and general administration -- skills that
should be relatively easy to find in Singapore.
Singapore is one of the world's most open economies, with
foreigners accounting for about one-third of the workforce.
Currently, it is even more liberal than Asian rival Hong
Kong in terms of the ease in which firms can hire foreign
While the former British colony also has a large expatriate
population, employers wanting to hire a foreigner must provide
proof that the job cannot be readily taken up by the local work
Employers must also provide remuneration packages that are
in line with the prevailing market standards in Hong Kong -- a
condition that makes it harder for firms to replace local
managers with lower-cost replacements.