Explained: Why Singapore has eased work visa rules

Singapore has unveiled long-term work visas with the aim to attract top foreign talent. Those earning at least 30,000 Singapore dollars per month will get a five-year pass

FP Explainers August 30, 2022 21:08:30 IST
Explained: Why Singapore has eased work visa rules

Singapore has eased its work visa rules to attract top global talent. AFP

Singapore on Monday unveiled new work visa rules to attract white-collar professionals from abroad.

The announcement comes as the Asian financial hub is looking to ease a competitive labour market that has seen increased wages and higher costs.

“We cannot leave any room for investors to doubt or have questions as to whether Singapore remains open,” Tan See Leng, the city-state’s manpower minister, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

“As a country with little or no resources, talent is our only resource and talent acquisition is an offensive strategy for us,” the minister added.

What are the new work visa rules and who is eligible to apply? Let’s understand in detail:

Singapore’s long-term work visa

Singapore will extend five-year visas to people earning at least 30,000 in Singapore dollars (around Rs 17 lakh) per month from 1 January, 2023.

The Overseas Networks and Expertise (ONE) pass will also allow the dependents of these high-salaried expatriates to seek employment in the city-state after obtaining a Letter of Consent, said Singapore’s ministry of manpower (MOM).

Talking to reporters on Monday, Tan See Leng said, “Both businesses and talent are searching for safe and stable places to invest, live and work in. Singapore is such a place.”

“It is therefore timely to leverage on this opportunity to cement Singapore’s position as a global hub for talent,” Bloomberg quoted the manpower minister as saying.

The new pass will provide the visa holders with the flexibility to simultaneously start, operate and work for multiple companies in Singapore at any point in time. “MOM will closely engage pass holders during their time in Singapore. The flexibilities offered by this pass are meant to allow pass holders to contribute meaningfully to Singapore. It is not meant to be abused as a visit or travel document,” Tan said, as per PTI.

Who else is eligible?

People with outstanding achievements in fields like arts and culture, sports, science and technology, research and academia who fail to meet the salary criteria are also eligible to apply for the long-term visa under ONE pass.

Explained Why Singapore has eased work visa rules

Singapore is looking to slacken a competitive labour market. AFP

Among other steps taken by the Singapore government to draw international business, tech professionals will be able to apply for five-year visas from September 2023, up from the current two-three years.

Moreover, the processing time for employment passes will also be slashed to 10 days from the current three weeks maximum, Reuters reported.

Singapore’s talent crunch

Korn Ferry, a US-based global organisational consulting firm, defines talent crunch in its report as “the gap between the supply and demand of skilled labor”.

As per the report, Singapore is already facing a talent shortage.

Its highly skilled (Level A – individuals with post-secondary degrees, such as college/university, or a high-level trade college qualification) workers will decline at a rate of 15.6 per cent annually to a deficit of 1.1 million by 2030. While in mid-skilled or Level B workers which are defined as “individuals with upper secondary education, such as high school, or a low level trade college qualification”, the shortfall will be marginal. “The gap is expected to deteriorate from a surplus of 2,07,000 in 2020 to a deficit of 8,000 in 2030, or the equivalent of 0.6 per cent of Level B talent,” says
Korn Ferry’s report.

As per the findings, Finance will account for a shortage of 28.5 per cent of Level A workers by 2030 and technology and manufacturing will face a crunch of 4.9 per cent and 2.8 per cent of total Level A professionals in 2030.

Due to the deficiency of talent, Singapore could lose out on $106.82 billion by 2030, the report added.

How does Singapore gain by changing visa rules?

Singapore is seeking to renew energy in its hospitality and food and beverage industries which witnessed a major plunge due to social mobility limitations during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Explained Why Singapore has eased work visa rules

By easing its work visa rules, Singapore aims to compete with business hubs like Hong Kong and the UAE. AFP

By easing its work visa rules, Singapore aims to compete with business centres like Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.

As per recruitment firm Robert Walters, around 700 finance employees shifted to Singapore from Hong Kong last year, Bloomberg reported.

The new work visa rules are “targeted at the very high-end foreign talent segment,” Selena Ling, head of Treasury Research & Strategy at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp was quoted as saying by Mint.

“It will not be in significantly large numbers that will move the needle for all industries, just for the very specific high growth industries,” Ling added.

With this bid, Singapore is aiming to attract a pool of elite global talent in several fields including tech, science and art.

With inputs from agencies

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