Three Ways To Reduce Foreign Talent in Singapore

Joseph Schooling, a Singaporean often confused for foreign talent

But will their departure lead to more good jobs for Singaporeans?

As of June 2015, there are 180,800 Employment Passes in Singapore, MOM says.

Foreigners in Singapore
Foreigners in Singapore

The number is climbing every year. What if we were to stop and even reverse the trend of hiring foreign talent? How do we even go about doing it?

One way is to figure out who already hires such an exorbitant number of FTs to do jobs that Singaporeans can, and regulate them further. But what’s the point if the regulations are not harsh enough?

Currently, MOM’s way of ensuring “fair consideration” is to lim kopi with companies who flout the Fair Consideration Framework, and make it harder for them to apply for Employment Passes.

However these companies, which are typically the big MNCs, can afford to wait for the Employment Passes or create a such convoluted argument why the foreign candidate they’re bringing in is better than the Singaporean candidates, until MOM cannot pinpoint the exact reason why the pass should be delayed.

Three ways to reduce foreign talent in Singapore

In 2011, the director of NTUC’s PME Unit, Patrick Tay, proposed a series of 3 conditions that employers need to fulfil in order to hire foreign talent.

Patrick Tay protect Singaporean job

Patrick Tay on protecting Singaporeans jobs

The first condition, which is labour market testing, was “sort of” implemented in the form of the Fair Consideration Framework, except that it is still not difficult for the hiring manager to think of a 101 reasons why a foreigner should be hired over a Singaporean.

The second condition is to legislate a ratio for foreign PMEs (based on the number of locals hired). So if bank A wants to hire one FT, it must ensure there are X number of Singaporeans and PRs already hired. Now this will be easier to measure, manage and penalize.

The third condition is for companies to have a Singaporean core, aka Singaporeans in key management positions. This means companies need to strategise sustainable ways to train and retain good Singaporean workers, instead of using and dumping them.

Why can’t we just deport all the useless foreign talent?

Firstly, can we prove that we are superior workers to them? Do we really have the skills and acumen to take over their jobs, to negotiate with regional partners and make business decisions based on sound knowledge of global markets? Or are we more interested in long lunch breaks, going home on time and having a passive-aggressive mindset towards solving problems at work?

Secondly, are you prepared for a drop in business and property value, because removing 180,800 mouths to feed and families to rent your property to means you have to live with the consequences of a slightly smaller economy?

The usefulness of foreigners
The usefulness of foreigners

Thirdly, if MNCs decide it is time to pack up and go, can you accept the opportunity loss of the jobs of Singaporeans already working for them? Not to mention the gaping holes left behind in the supply chain that no Singaporean SME can fill on short notice?

Foreigners create Singaporean jobs
Foreigners create Singaporean jobs

Nope, our country’s problems aren’t that easy to solve. But we can only count on ourselves to look after our country’s interests. If your average Singaporean doesn’t bother to excel beyond his backyard, then well, you can say bye bye to SG100.

Joseph Schooling, a Singaporean often confused for foreign talent
Joseph Schooling, a Singaporean often confused for foreign talent


  1. I think legislating a ratio of foreign talent to local talent is good idea especially for larger companies which has the necessary resources and manpower base to hire core singaporean staff to balance their foreign talent numbers. For smaller companies, legislating a quota may be a hindrance to their growth as certain skilled manpower such as IT talent may not be easily available to smaller startups for example.

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