ASME President: Raising EP and S Pass criteria “overly protective” towards Singaporeans

He wants two-third of people working in Singapore to be foreigners

by Correspondent  27 August 2020 in Current Affairs 2 min read

Yesterday (26 Aug), Manpower Minister Josephine Teo announced that the minimum salary qualifications for Employment Passes (EPs) and S Passes will soon be raised. Such work passes are needed for companies to employ foreign PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians).

Presently, the minimum monthly salary threshold for EP holders is $3,900, and for S Pass holders, $2,400. The impending increase would be the second announced this year and comes amid rising retrenchments and concerns about competition between Singaporeans and foreigners in the job market, as well as the loss of 2 GRCs by the ruling PAP in the recent general election. Details are expected to be announced by the government later.

Most people welcomed the announcement from Mrs Teo (‘Move to raise salary criteria for S Passes, EPs timely: Analysts‘).

However, the president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME), Mr Kurt Wee, thought otherwise. He said since eight to nine years ago, businesses have been facing a “very tightened” foreign workforce landscape.

“We are seeing risks of policy being overly protective towards the local workforce and this may have a negative impact on the longer term resilience and competitiveness of our local workforce,” he said.

Kurt Wee from investment and private equity industry

Wee was appointed the President of ASME in 2013. In fact, he has been involved in ASME since 2002 at the age of 28. In 2004, he became ASME’s vice-president at the age of 30, making him one of the youngest among the ASME leaders.

Wee works in the investment and private equity industry. He is said to be regularly “consulted by enterprises for turnarounds, recovery and corporate restructuring situations”. He serves in a number of committees in various government ministries, charity and academic institutions.

In 2011, he even submitted his name to be considered for the 9 available Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) positions in Parliament.

Kurt Wee wants two-third working in Singapore to be foreigners

Wee, clearly, is happy to see more foreigners working for enterprises in Singapore (‘Foreign manpower ratio not optimal: Asme’s Kurt Wee‘). During a public dialogue in 2017, Wee who was a panelist, proposed a ratio of 1:2, or one local to two foreigners, working in Singapore. The current government’s policy has always been maintaining a ratio of 2:1, meaning two locals for one foreigner employed in the workforce

Wee said, “The 2:1 ratio is not optimal. We are not necessarily wanting to go (in the way of) Dubai, which is one local to about nine or 10 imports. But if you consider the (current) ratio 2:1, it’s not inconceivable that when we have further developed our infrastructure to eventually consider 1:2.”

He added that the proposed ratio of 1:2, that is, having two-third of Singapore workforce composed of foreigners, is still “manageable”.

“If the ratio is relaxed without compromising on quality control, you might have a little bit of breathing space for businesses,” he said.

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