‘Not a zero-sum world’: Singapore says global talent hunt won’t disadvantage locals
- The manpower minister on Monday addressed opposition’s concern over the impact of new labour schemes on local residents
- ‘Not a zero-sum world’, minister says, as attracting top talent to Singapore does not mean fewer opportunities for Singaporeans
“The better we are at attracting and retaining the best talent, local and global, the higher the chances of securing our economic future and to continually be able to generate good jobs for all Singaporeans,” he said.
As part of the strategy, it will launch a new type of visa – the Overseas Networks and Expertise Pass – starting next year. Applicants require a minimum monthly salary of S$30,000 (US$21,400) to qualify for the scheme and will be granted a five-year stay in Singapore.
Tan, who was speaking in parliament on Monday, fielded a list of wide-ranging questions on the new scheme, including how it could benefit the local workforce and if it would dilute efforts to nurture Singaporean workers.
Opposition lawmakers, such as Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh – the country’s official leader of the opposition – and Leong Mun Wai of the Progress Singapore Party had raised questions about the scheme, including over whether studies had been done on its potential impact on jobs for locals.
In his remarks, Tan underscored that the new talent inflows would not come at the cost of locals and could, instead, create more jobs for them. “We do not live in a zero-sum world. Attracting and anchoring global talent in Singapore does not mean less opportunities for locals,” he said.
For example, some pass holders may be employees who can bring a new business unit to Singapore. Others may set up their own companies and generate employment or even share their expertise with other Singaporeans, he said.
“We are building a rich network of markets, people and ideas that, over time, will show up in the dynamism of our economy.”
Particularly, small and medium-sized enterprises or SMEs would benefit from the introduction of the new pass.
As foreign nationals working in Singapore under the scheme would not be tied to just one employer, SMEs could tap their expertise even without hiring them directly either through consultation or by inviting them to join their boards.
Asked about the potential abuse of the newly announced pass, Tan suggested that measures would be in place to prevent abuse or fraudulent applications.
There would be two levels of safeguards. Backend checks will sieve out potential cases of false salary declarations and checks against personal income tax filings will be conducted for those who request conversion from an existing employment pass.
The government has the right to cancel the pass if there are “extended periods of economic inactivity with no good reasons”, added Tan.
“Having said that, we are bringing in these talents and giving them flexibilities because we want to encourage them to take risks, to explore new frontiers and to make a big impact to benefit Singapore.”
On whether there would be controls to ensure that the new passes were not disproportionately allocated to one nationality, Tan said there was no fixed quota for nationalities but what was more important was the quality of talent entering Singapore.
Even as Singapore is set to woo top professionals from around the world, the manpower minister stressed that it was important to develop the local workforce and leadership pipeline.
He cited how existing foreign workforce policies were designed to incentivise firms to develop a strong local workforce.
There are also programmes that help workers upgrade their skills, learn new skills, as well as initiatives that develop local leaders, including the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s Asian Financial Leaders Scheme that co-funds Singaporeans in the financial sector on leadership programmes.
“Our policies to attract global talent are also meant to accelerate the development of our own local talent pool,” Tan said.