400 firms on watchlist for foreign hiring practices, but not productive to name: Josephine Teo

ABOUT 400 companies are on the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) watchlist for reasons related to foreign hiring practices, but it would be counter-productive to name these firms instead of helping them to employ locals, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo in Parliament on Friday, responding to questions filed by various Members of Parliament.

For those firms that are on the watchlist due to having a higher share of foreign PMETs (professionals, managers, executives, technicians) than their industry peers, or high concentrations of foreign hires from a single source country, their work pass applications are held back while Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) helps them to improve their human resource practices.

Many such firms do exit the watchlist, said Mrs Teo. For those that remain uncooperative, their work pass privileges remain suspended.

Repeating figures that were earlier shared on Tuesday, Mrs Teo noted that since 2016, more than 1,200 firms have been scrutinised under the FCF. In total, some 3,200 Employment Pass applications by these firms were rejected, withheld, or withdrawn subsequently by the firms themselves. Instead, some 4,000 Singaporean PMETs were hired by these same firms in total.

Unlike companies which have been taken to task for infringements, firms on the FCF watchlist have not flouted any rules, stressed Mrs Teo. These firms were instead identified through proactive surveillance, she said, adding: "We are watching them."

Some firms are genuinely unfamiliar with local recruitment channels, or following directives from overseas headquarters, she said. In most instances, employers on the watchlist were responsive to Tafep and expanded their hiring of local PMETs with help from Workforce Singapore.

Publicly naming these firms, as some MPs called for, would likely have frustrated their local hiring efforts and thus been counter-productive, said Mrs Teo.

About 90 employers have had their work pass privileges suspended because of infringements under the FCF, including infringements related to age and gender discrimination. Such employers can neither renew work passes for foreign employees, nor have new applications approved - some for as long as two years.