The newly-launched Manpower for Strategic Economic Priorities (M-SEP) scheme will now increase the quota of foreign workers that eligible companies can employ.
These eligible companies can hire S-pass and work permit holders above the prevailing dependency ratio ceiling (DRC) and S Pass sub-DRC, at up to 5 per cent above their base workforce headcount, capped at 50 workers per company.
Successful applicants are granted these additional quotas for an initial 2 years, after which they may apply for renewal.
Speaking at the launch of the M-SEP scheme, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said:
“We wanted to provide enterprises that are very innovative, that have made significant investments and that have also very firm and very aggressive internationalisation plans, the complementary foreign manpower to help them.”
To be eligible, firms must participate in qualifying initiatives by 1 of 5 five agencies – the Economic Development Board’s Development and Expansion Incentive, Enterprise Singapore’s Scale-Up SG and the Singapore Tourism Board’s Business Improvement Fund, and other programmes by the Infocomm Media Development Authority and the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore.
Or, they must meet certain economic criteria such as being a manufacturer employing at least 500 locals.
The scheme has been met with derision by Small-Medium Enterprises in Singapore.
Regarding the first condition, only about 1,000 firms meet this requirement – less than 1 per cent of all registered businesses.
Some SMEs believe that the government has launched the M-SEP scheme to benefit large firms at the expense of smaller businesses which are already experiencing a labour crunch.
Association of Small and Medium Enterprises vice-president Ang Yuit said the scheme is a good step for larger companies, but for SMEs there are now “two hoops to jump”.
The M-SEP scheme comes after the Overseas Network and Expertise Pass (ONE Pass) scheme was announced in August this year, which the government claims is aimed at attracting top foreign talent.
It is valid for valid for five years, even longer than the Employment Pass, and Pass holders’ spouses ar entitled to work with a letter of consent rather than having to apply and qualify for their own work passes.
Last year, the government launched the Tech Pass scheme to enable a greater flow of foreign workers in the tech sector to work in Singapore.