Preferred sector: The Asia-Pacific headquarters of Google LLC in Singapore. Technology roles of all kinds have been highly favoured as Singapore opens its doors further to international applicants. — Bloomberg
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SINGAPORE: As Singapore embraces the post-Covid era, the city-state’s leaders are busy updating rules around hiring foreign workers while tearing down coronavirus restrictions, citing a hyper-competitive battle for global talent.
Five-year visas and the scrapping of a law against sex between men made headlines, but Singapore has unveiled a series of measures meant to help it vault past other financial hubs and lure talent in next-generation industries like computing, aeronautics and even the arts.
“Singapore is still a global city,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an address last month, in which he vowed to bolster the national workforce’s skills. “We cannot survive in any other way.”
Political stability, safety, efficient healthcare and public transport have long been part of Singapore’s pitch to the world. But city leaders say that’s not enough.
The competition is not just with Hong Kong: In his national day speech, Lee singled out Germany, which will allow some workers to enter the country before they even secure a job, and the United Kingdom, which is offering a special visa for graduates from the top 50 universities in the world – two of which are in Singapore.,
Then there’s Thailand, which just unveiled its own 10-year visa plan for foreign workers, and the United Arab Emirates, which will allow some expats to get work visas without being sponsored by a company.
Starting in 2023, Singapore is instituting a points-based system for visa candidates – evaluating things like education, skills, pay and how nationality contributes to diversity at their firm. The “Compass” system mimics similar programmes in the UK and Canada.
In Singapore’s programme, applicants need at least 40 points across six categories to be in contention, with the potential to score 0, 10, or 20 points in each. Have a Harvard degree? Twenty points for you.
In its biggest shift, Singapore will offer a five-year work visa – the Overseas Networks and Expertise (ONE) pass – for those making at least S$30,000 (RM95,850) per month, a jump from the two-year pass many foreign workers have.
The new visa also allows workers’ dependents to seek employment and opens the door for exceptional candidates in sports, arts, science and academia who don’t meet the salary criteria.
Singapore’s Fair Consideration Framework is meant to ensure that local candidates get a fair shot even among firms that have international hires in their sights.
The policies were tightened as unemployment jumped during the pandemic and the government focused on shoring up the domestic workforce. Some of those rules were eased last month. Jobs must now be advertised for 14 days, down from 28 days during the pandemic’s peak.