In a move that looks set to be an election sweetener, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) says that it will get tough on errant firms who continue to favor foreigners for professional, managerial and executive (PME) positions.

From 1st October, firms will have to disclose the salary ranges of their PME jobs when they advertise their positions in Jobs Bank – a government portal meant for local job seekers.

This will ensure that there is transparency and accountability in the hiring process so that locals will not be shortchanged, says Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say.

When these firms subsequently apply for foreigners to fill the vacancies after they cannot find locals, some may be singled out by the Manpower Ministry (MOM) to give information such as whether locals applied for the jobs and how many were interviewed. This will put firms under “greater scrutiny”, Lim said.

And those who already have a higher ratio of foreign staff, compared to their peers in the industry, will be asked by the MOM to implement a plan to reduce their reliance on foreign PMEs, before the ministry approves new or renew the Employment Passes for the foreigners.

Lim says the ministry has already put the hiring process of some 150 firms under greater scrutiny.

But not all the measures will be punitive, says Lim. Subsidies will be given to firms who hire locals for PME jobs that pay at least $4000 a month. These subsidies can range from $400 to $2,8000 each month for 12 months, which would lower their costs of hiring these local workers.

The wage subsidy programme will run for two years, starting also from 1st October.

Besides the wage subsidy, the Singapore Workforce Development Authority is also looking into hiring professional headhunters to help unemployed PMEs find jobs.

However, it remains to be seen how seriously MOM will scrutinize firms with high ratios of foreigners, particularly those in banking, finance and IT. These industries have in recent years been dominated by a large pool of foreign PMEs, who will likely resist any attempts by the MOM to push for more local hires.

Discrimination on a day to day basis was also cited as a problem by locals, according to netizens, who frequently complain of being forced to leave their jobs by foreign supervisors.

Posting in response to news of the new MOM measures, one netizen summed up his concerns: “This all sounds like too little too late. After many Singaporeans have already been pushed out of PMET jobs, what can the MOM’s new laws do?”

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