Singapore Implements New Permits for Temporary Foreign Workers

With an influx of short-stay foreign laborers in the city-state, the Singapore government recently announced changes to its work permit system, Hong-Kong-based financial consultancy Zetland reports
By: Jason Weatherhead
May 19, 2008 - PRLog -- The Singaporean government has reconfigured its permit system for temporary foreign workers amid an influx of laborers from overseas, Zetland Financial Group says.

The government abolished the Professional Visit Pass on February 1st and replaced it with two new work pass categories. The Miscellaneous Work Pass will be valid for up to 60 days, while the Work Permit (Performing Artist) has a maximum duration of six months.

In addition, foreigners may now enter Singapore without a work pass for short durations to perform certain activities that involve specialized skills.

A recent surge in foreign workers has caused some resentment among native Singaporeans. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has urged citizens to look at the contributions of foreign laborers objectively.

“We have the foreign workers here, and that's why our economy has grown, that's why the companies are here. That's why Singaporeans have jobs in such big numbers," Lee said.

Foreigners make up about one-third of the national workforce. Beginning this year, Singaporean companies were allowed to draw on foreigners for up to 50 percent of their labor force.

Chinese workers are the largest component of an expatriate contingent that crossed the 1 million mark in October.

The prime minister said foreign workers are hardworking and willing to work long hours. Lee reiterated the Singapore government is controlling the inflow of foreign labor by setting limits. This gives Singaporean workers the edge in competing for jobs, he said.

“They are not here to steal our jobs but to help us enlarge the economic pie,” said Lee.

New rules will also be imposed to make it a clear offence for employers to receive kickbacks to hire foreign workers, and for employment agencies to make such offers, said Acting Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong.

The regulations are intended to prevent exploitation of foreign workers under rebate schemes, as some agents have been offering employers US$2,000 to US$3,000 for every worker they hire.

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Zetland Financial Group’s report is one of many offered each month on its comprehensive website. Zetland provides business and financial consultancy internationally and in the Asia region with an emphasis on operations in China.
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