On 12 July, a Straits Times (ST) reader wrote to ST Forum proposing that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM applies tests to weed out sub-standard FTs applying to work in Singapore (‘Tests can weed out foreign PMEs with fake degrees’).

He also hoped that Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say would address issues like foreign PMEs, Employment Pass holders, fake certificates as well as English oral and written proficiency.

“Like Australia, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) should conduct English proficiency tests for foreign PME applicants. The issue of foreign PMEs with fake certificates is also a concern. I hope the MOM will work with the universities here to conduct tests for foreign PME applicants, to weed out those with fake qualifications,” he suggested.

“Such tests for randomly selected foreign applicants can deter those with fake degrees from taking a chance to come to Singapore to seek employment, knowing that they could be sent home at their own expense. If we do not take such steps, it will affect our productivity and unity, as it is also a politically-sensitive matter.”

Adrian Chua, Divisional Director of Manpower Planning and Policy Division in MOM, replied to the reader and others in ST Forum today (18 Jul).

Mr Chua began by saying that MOM “takes a serious view” of foreign PMEs using fake degrees to seek employment in Singapore.

He said, “We have caught more than 5,000 such applicants with forged qualifications between 2012 and last year. They have been banned from working in Singapore for life.”

In other words, 5,000 FT applicants were caught in 3 years using forged qualifications. This works out to be more than 1,670 applicants per year.

This figure does not include FT applicants with qualifications from degree mills. In the past, MOM would just ignore such degrees but might still issue a work pass to the foreigner based on his salary and experience.

However, as announced recently, MOM will now reject all work pass applications which contain “doubtful qualifications”, such as those from degree mills. This announcement came after a public outcry against the Infocomm Development Agency for hiring people with qualifications from degree mills.

In setting the ceiling for dependency on foreign workers, MOM already differentiates between the construction, manufacturing and service sectors, Mr Chua said.

“We do not go beyond that by imposing different limits for different service industries because the challenges faced are generally quite common in nature. Ultimately, the most sustainable solution is for all sectors to move towards becoming more manpower-lean, with a stronger Singaporean core, complemented by better-quality foreign manpower.”

With regard to hiring older PMEs, the recently announced Career Support Programme (CSP) is aimed at encouraging more employers to seriously consider mature PMEs, he added.

Under CSP, the government will give wage support for 1 year to companies willing to hire new mature PMEs.

“The Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), together with partners such as the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) and NTUC U PME, will also prepare them for their new employment,” Mr Chua assured. “More than 26,000 PMEs have been assisted through WDA and e2i since 2011.”

“Working together in partnership with employers, unions and workers, we are doing our best on these fronts: to enhance the competitiveness of our economy, to create good jobs for our people and enhance their employability, and develop good careers for them and their families,” he concluded his letter.

However, notice that Mr Chua has avoided talking about implementing tests such as English proficiency tests to further weed out sub-standard foreign FTs, as proposed by the ST reader on 12 Jul.

Such tests are routinely conducted by first world countries such as Australia. Why do you think the Singapore government is reluctant to do so?

41 people arrested for illegal importation of labour

Meanwhile, early this month (3 Jul), it was reported that 41 people have been arrested for the illegal importation of labour.

The suspects, including the alleged mastermind and members of the syndicate, were apprehended for setting up shell companies to bring in the foreign workers. The syndicate would then collect large amounts of kickbacks from the workers.

Some of the workers paid large sums of money to be part of the scam in order to obtain a genuine work pass. In turn, these workers would seek illegal employment.

In the past year, MOM said it has dealt with three syndicates involved in setting up companies which had brought in about 500 workers illegally.

Most of the foreign workers are likely to be work permit holders. It’s not known if foreigners on S-Pass or EP are involved.

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