Simplify foreign worker regulations

The recent measures by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to restrict foreign manpower deployment can create a huge burden on employers and blunt Singapore’s competitiveness. I urge the MOM to consider streamlining its regulations, and improving Singapore’s productivity as a result.

Foreign worker quotas can be simplified. There is no need to use a tiered system based on formal educational qualifications – employers in each industry can be given a simple ratio (i.e. for every Singaporean they hire, they can hire X foreign workers). It is up to them to hire workers from any country and with any qualification to fill their quota. If they desire, they can engage agencies (certified by MOM) to verify their worker’s educational qualifications.

Likewise, the MOM can use a flat levy system that sets a fixed price for all foreign workers in a specific industry. The levy can be calculated based on the maximum number of workers employed by the company each month and not tied to each worker individually. This can vastly streamline administrative work for both the MOM and companies.

I also suggest that the MOM create a new pass system (which we can call “Flexi-Work Pass”) to provide manpower stability. The pass holder can work for any employer, but only for the purpose of temporarily replacing another foreign worker who is on leave, off or just newly resigned.

A domestic helper can, for instance, be relived by another one when she is taking her Sunday off or her annual vacation. In addition, employers who need time to hire a new worker can source for temporary manpower or use the scheme to hire a worker on probation.

Only foreign workers who have resigned from their job can apply to convert their work pass into a “Flexi-Work Pass” (perhaps up to valid for up to 6 months) while they look for another job. This helps retain good quality, experienced foreign workers in Singapore while preventing employers and employment agencies from wielding too much power over the foreign workers.

I urge policymakers to give some extra thought for employers. Being unnecessarily restrictive on regulating foreign workers will deter businesses from operating in Singapore and hurt ordinary Singaporean workers like myself in the long run.