Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Bar raised for foreigners’ families keen to stay here

MOM’s move is the latest in a series of moves by various ministries to sharpen the privileges of being Singaporean and restrict the influx of foreigners which has strained the city’s infrastructure and caused locals considerable angst in the last few years

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Guanyu 道 said...

Bar raised for foreigners’ families keen to stay here

Government move aimed at easing pressure on social infrastructure: MOM

Cai Haoxiang

MOM’s move is the latest in a series of moves by various ministries to sharpen the privileges of being Singaporean and restrict the influx of foreigners which has strained the city’s infrastructure and caused locals considerable angst in the last few years

First, higher levies and stricter work pass conditions made it harder for foreigners to work here.

Now, foreigners will also find it tougher to keep their families here, under a new rule announced on the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) website on Monday.

For Singaporeans, this move might mean fewer foreigners competing for limited space in local schools, hospitals and trains.

But the city-state might also be less attractive to some lower-earning skilled foreigners who will now have to work here without their spouses or children.

From Sept 1, MOM said in a posting on its website, S Pass and Employment Pass (EP) holders need to earn at least $4,000 monthly before they can sponsor a Dependant’s Pass for their spouses and children. The salary requirement is up from $2,800 previously.

The Dependant’s Pass is a privilege that allows foreigners to stay here for longer periods of time, and is tied to the duration of the sponsor’s work pass. Dependants can also apply for Letters of Consent to work here, without having to apply for a work pass.

For all EP holders, their parents-in-law are no longer allowed to stay here.

Those earning more under the EP framework will face progressively fewer restrictions.

P2 Pass holders, who earn at least $4,500, can bring their spouses and children, but will no longer be able to bring their parents or parents-in-law.

P1 Pass holders, who earn at least $8,000, can still bring their parents in addition to their spouses and children - just not their parents-in-law.

Meanwhile, P1 and P2 Pass holders can also still apply for long-term visit passes for other categories like common-law spouses, their children, and handicapped children and stepchildren aged above 21.

Explaining the changes, MOM said: “The government is making this move as part of the overall direction to moderate growth of the non-resident population, including the foreign workforce inflow, in Singapore.

“This will help ease the pressure on our social infrastructure,” it said.

MOM advised companies not to make a “knee- jerk reaction” to the tightening of dependant privileges, as MOM will continue to approve Dependant’s Pass applications before Sept 1.

Current dependants can also stay in Singapore as long as the main pass holder has a valid work pass and remains with the same employer.

MOM’s move is the latest in a series of moves by various ministries to sharpen the privileges of being Singaporean and restrict the influx of foreigners which has strained the city’s infrastructure and caused locals considerable angst in the last few years.

For example, qualifying salaries for EP holders were raised to $3,000 in January along with stricter educational requirements.

Higher foreign worker levies and tighter foreign worker quotas kicked in earlier this month.

MOM, however, stressed that Singapore “remains a global talent capital” and continues to welcome highly skilled foreign talent who want families to stay with them.

Observers say that the latest change affects young graduates looking to work here who earn wages in the $2,800-$4,000 range.

Teo Siong Seng, president of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “I don’t understand the rationale. Do support and give priority to Singaporeans, but we must also open up to talented people. Those who are younger and just started work, just married, might be discouraged from coming to work here as it is harder to part from their spouses.”

Guanyu 道 said...

Similarly, Annie Yap, managing director of recruiter AYP Associates, said that “quite a lot of foreigners earn in the $2,800- $4,000 range”, so the move will deter some from continuing to work here.

Others are divided on whether the move will have an impact on Singapore’s attractiveness to talent.

Singapore National Employers Federation executive director Koh Juan Kiat pointed out that other countries have similar restrictions for dependants.

Lim Der Shing, chief executive of online recruitment portal JobsCentral, said that Singapore is such an expensive place to live in anyway that it is likely that only those earning $4,000 and above are bringing dependants in.

“For my company, people on S Passes and EPs don’t bring their dependants over unless both husband and wife are working,” he added.

Chan Chong Beng, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, said the move is a good one.

“Our infrastructure today is quite jammed and will need some time to be ready for more people. This will ease the pressure,” he said.

Ultimately, the move might be good in the short term but may have an unintended consequence in low-fertility Singapore, which is trying hard to solve its demographic problems, said sociologist Paulin Straughan, an associate professor at NUS.

She said that the new rule will encourage a “guest-worker” mentality among foreign workers earning less than $4,000 a month.

They will more likely be single and willing to work longer hours for lower wages, Prof Straughan said.

“We’re no longer going to be attractive to married individuals who can fill in the kind of jobs people in that salary range usually take - essentially service sector jobs.

“This changes the nature of work. You will have foreigners come in who are single, and their only intention is to make as much money as they can and go home - as, obviously, they are not welcome here,” Prof Straughan added.

“That’s a pity. Because when the entire family is here, the way the guest worker leads his or her family life will be very different.

“They will be more like regular Singaporeans, keeping regular hours to have a good work-life balance.”