Singapore Tightens Restrictions for Foreign-Worker Passes
Qxpress workers move goods for delivery at a warehouse in Singapore. (Photographer: Wei Leng Tay/Bloomberg)

Singapore Tightens Restrictions for Foreign-Worker Passes

Follow Bloomberg on LINE messenger for all the business news and analysis you need.

Singapore tightened regulations around employment visas for foreign workers by raising the minimum salaries for two categories of passes.

Employment pass holders -- in executive, managerial or specialized roles -- must earn a minimum monthly salary of S$4,500 ($3,295), versus a previous threshold of S$3,900, according to a Ministry of Manpower release. Those with an “S pass,” or mid-level technical staff, must earn at least S$2,500 per month -- up from S$2,400.

In the financial services industry, the minimum qualifying salary for an employment pass will be increased to S$5,000, given higher pay in the sector. It’s the first time salary requirements have been set higher for a particular industry, the ministry said.

Singapore’s government is trying to protect local jobs at a time when retrenchments are on the rise and the city-state faces its worst recession on record. Given its small and aging population, it’s also trying to strike a balance that allows for enough hiring of foreign talent, especially in industries like cybersecurity and financial technology.​​

In evaluating applications for both passes, the ministry will consider whether the employer has shown support for hiring local professionals and government efforts to recruit and train them, as well as avoiding discrimination against qualified Singaporeans, it said.

“We are giving these considerations additional emphasis now, given the uncertain economic times, to remind all employers to play their part in building up their Singaporean workforce, and help sustain public support for a business-friendly work pass policy,” according to the statement.

​Other details related to work passes:

  • The changes are applicable for new applicants from Sept. 1 for employment passes and Oct. 1 for S passes. For both, the changes take effect for renewal applicants from May 1, 2021
  • The higher minimum qualifying salary for the financial services sector will take effect from Dec. 1
  • For employment pass holders in all sectors, those 40 years and older will need to earn “around double” the minimum qualifying salary for the youngest workers

​The ministry last changed the minimum salary requirements in May, and undergoes periodic reviews of the thresholds, in part to keep pace with wage growth and broader inflation measures.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore said in a separate statement it supports the changes for work passes in the financial industry. The adjustments will “continue to allow financial institutions to complement their local workforce by tapping on a global talent pool for the specialized skillsets that the financial sector needs,” it said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.