Singapore Raises Minimum Qualifying Salary For Foreign Workers

Singapore Raises Minimum Qualifying Salary For Foreign Workers

It is currently SGD5,000 a month for EP holders employed in professional positions.

Gurdip Singh PTIUpdated: Tuesday, March 05, 2024, 10:02 AM IST
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Representative Image (Changi Airport, Singapore) | Architectural Digest

Singapore is raising the minimum qualifying monthly salary to SGD5,600 from Jan 1, 2025, for the Employment Pass (EP) that is issued to foreigners working in the city state.

It is currently SGD5,000 a month for EP holders employed in professional positions.

Those working in financial services will need to earn SGD6,200 a month, up from SGD5,500 now, in view of the sector's higher wage norms.

The minimum salary for candidates in their mid-40s to qualify will also increase to SGD10,700, and to SGD11,800 for those working in financial services.

To keep the bar high

The new salary scale will also be applied to EP holders when they renew the pass a year after.

A raft of changes to the foreign work pass system is to keep up the skills bar of Singapore's foreign workforce at all levels, while ensuring Singaporeans can get good jobs and enterprises here pursue innovation.

"The EP qualifying salary will also continue to increase progressively with age," Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng said on March 4, during the debate on the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) budget.

The changes were made to ensure the cost of hiring an EP holder remains in line with what the top one-third of local professionals, managers, executives and technicians minimally earn, which was a benchmark unveiled during Budget 2022.

The EP qualifying salary is reviewed annually against the benchmark, the Ministry of Manpower said in a statement on March 4.

The timing of the moves means that firms with existing EP holders have a longer runway, potentially up to 2028, to manage the impact of these changes and prepare their hiring plans, The Straits Times reported, citing Dr Tan.

Employment pass valid for 2 years

The EP is valid for up to two years for first-time pass holders, and up to three years for those whose passes are renewed.

Dr Tan said the dates were set in response to concerns from trade associations and chambers on the rising costs of manpower and constraints in hiring.

However, he added: "Even as we continue to attract top talent to grow our economy, our work pass framework needs to be strengthened to ensure that firms develop their local workforce and treat locals fairly." Still, there will be no adjustment to the S Pass qualifying salary and levy in 2024, which will both be increased in 2025 as part of a series of stepped increases already announced in Budget 2022, he noted. S Pass is lower than EP.

Reducing dependency

Dr Tan also announced changes to the work permit framework for the labour-intensive marine shipyard sector set to kick in from Jan 1, 2026, to spur the sector's pivot to more productive and resource-efficient activities.

The dependency ratio ceiling (DRC) for the sector will be gradually reduced from 77.8 per cent to 75 per cent.

The DRC is the maximum permissible ratio of foreign workers to the total workforce for a company in a given sector.

The change means that companies in the sector can hire a maximum of three work permit holders for each local employee, down from 3.5 currently.

Scout for talent

The levy for basic-skilled work permit holders in the sector will be increased from SGD400 to SGD500, and that for higher-skilled work permit holders from SGD300 to SGD350.

Dr Tan spoke on the effectiveness of the Complementarity Assessment (Compass) framework as well.

Compass is a points-based framework that evaluates attributes of individual EP applicants and their prospective employer, in deciding to issue the pass.

All new EP applications made since Sept 1, 2023, have been evaluated through Compass, and the framework will be extended to renewals from Sept 1, 2024.

Under Compass, four "foundational" criteria are used to assess an application. They are an individual's salary and qualifications, as well as the firm's workforce diversity and support for local employment.

Bonus points are given to jobs where there is a lack of skilled workers specified on a Shortage Occupation List, and firms that partner the Government on ambitious innovation and internationalisation activities.

To pass the evaluation, which is designed to provide firms with greater clarity and certainty for manpower planning, the application needs to rack up 40 points.

Dr Tan also provided an update on the Overseas Networks and Expertise (One) Pass, launched in January 2023 to draw top talent to Singapore. Almost 4,200 One Pass applications had been approved as of Jan 1, 2024, he said.

"In an era where talent is scarce, businesses follow talent," the broadsheet quoted Dr Tan as saying. While not large in numbers, he said, One Pass holders generate employment either through their own ventures or through anchoring businesses in Singapore, creating good jobs for Singaporeans.

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