Visa Crunch

Singapore Seeks To Attract International Talent Under New Point Based Visa System

Singapore is looking to attract higher-calibre foreign employees through a new points-based visa system, as part of the government’s larger effort to promote local employment while promoting itself as a global city, according to Manpower Minister Tan See Leng.

“What we are trying to do is to be able to differentiate the high talent, the really super skillsets talent that can come to our country to work to complement our existing workforce,” Tan said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Haslinda Amin on Thursday.

The country announced last week one of the most significant changes to visa laws in decades, allowing entry of normally well-paid professionals who will be evaluated based on qualities such as education, talents, and how their nationality contributes to the diversity of their organisation.

The new scoring method is slated to go into effect in September next year for new applicants for an Employment Pass, which presently accounts for around 14 per cent of the foreign workforce in the financial and economic hub.

The revisions are intended to address people’s worries about a perceived bias toward hiring foreigners, and they come two years after the ruling People’s Action Party lost the most parliamentary seats since independence.

Tan stated that hostility towards foreigners is not widespread in the country. According to Tan, the new approach, which has been in the works for a long time, has been welcomed by business chambers and enterprises since it brings greater openness to the hiring process.

“Rather than open the door and let every single one in, what we are trying to say is that let’s have a little bit more differentiation,” said Tan. The endgame is one where “the ones that leave get replaced by higher-calibre EPs” over the next few years, Tan said.

The Southeast Asian country is currently confronting a shortage of manpower in businesses ranging from labour-intensive construction and services to high-skilled tech and finance after foreigners fled due to stringent immigration restrictions during the pandemic.

Tan stated that Singapore hopes to alleviate the labour shortage by luring highly educated women and older workers back into the labour force and encouraging businesses to implement more flexible work arrangements. He thinks that a previously stated hike in the retirement age might “possibly” re-enter the labour force for more than 100,000 people.

The labour crisis is still likely to be overcome in the coming months as Singapore relaxes border controls “very swiftly,” he said, reiterating prior remarks by Finance Minister Lawrence Wong that the government aims to resolve the foreign worker need within a few months.

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