Singapore is raising the barrier for entry to foreign professionals by increasing minimum qualifying salaries for their work visa, the employment pass (EP), from 1 September.

All entry-level EP applicants will now have to earn SGD 4,500 (USD 3,313) – a 15% rise from the previous minimum salary. This marks a second upward adjustment since May and applies to all foreign professionals with a job offer in a managerial, executive or specialised field. 

Qualifying salaries for older and more experienced candidates will also be raised correspondingly, with applicants in their 40s required to earn roughly double that of the youngest applicants.

However, from 1 December onwards, Singapore will also implement its first sector-specific requirement. The minimum qualifying salary for new applicants in the financial services sector will be raised even higher to SGD 5,000 (USD 3,681), reflecting the industry’s higher salary average. 

“A high quality workforce, with a strong Singaporean core complemented by EP holders with specialised skills, will best enable our financial services sector to compete internationally, and seize new growth opportunities as the Asian and global economies recover”, commented Jacqueline Loh, Deputy Managing Director of Markets & Development of the MAS. 

Meanwhile, from 1 October, S Pass applicants, who are primarily mid-skilled technical staff, will also have to meet a slightly increased SGD 2,500 (USD 1,841) threshold, instead of  SGD 2,400 (USD 1,767).

As a further measure, the duration of compulsory advertising of jobs on the portal has also been doubled from at least 14 to 28 days before applications can be made for a new EP, or S Pass for foreign candidates. Taking effect from 1 October, this aims to give local jobseekers more time to respond to job openings and for employers to evaluate their applications. 

The policy changes are the latest development in Singapore’s long-term push to encourage firms to hire locally. In response to previous changes, Singapore has seen a marked decline in EP holders from “an average of 13,000 annually in the first half of the last decade to less than 3,000 annually in the second half”, according to figures from Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower.

The country’s business industry has been under increasing pressure to maintain a better balance of local to foreign workers, with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) prioritising the retention and upskilling of current and local financial staff to strengthen the Singapore Core. “Protecting and growing Singaporean jobs, especially in current economic conditions, is a top priority,” said MAS Managing Director Ravi Menon in a submission to the Straits Times earlier this month. 

Speaking to Bloomberg TV, Trade & Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing assures that Singapore will remain “open and connected” as a financial hub, even as it tightens restrictions on foreign workers to protect local jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic.


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