Singapore

New scheme for Chinese workers to help ease labour crunch

Chinese work pass holders in manufacturing and services will be allowed to switch jobs within their sectors from next Monday even while in Singapore.

The interim measure, aimed at giving firms more flexibility to deal with labour challenges due to the coronavirus outbreak, will last six months, the Manpower Ministry (MOM) said yesterday.

Under current rules, Chinese work pass holders in those sectors cannot switch jobs while in Singapore, which means firms can only hire them after they exit the country.

The move was announced during a visit by Manpower Minister Josephine Teo to Wong Fong Engineering Works in Joo Koon yesterday.

She said firms with excess manpower will be matched to those facing a shortage, if the firms on both sides agree to a transfer.

"I think this will plug a gap, and we hope that this is also a practical, tangible way in which we can help businesses to manage the current situation," she said.

In its statement, MOM said the scheme will help firms save on search and recruitment expenses, and repatriation costs.

Done in partnership with the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), the move borrows from an existing scheme for the construction, process and marine sectors.

Employers who want to hire or transfer Chinese work pass holders can contact SBF at manpowerconnect@sbf.org.sg

The service is free for the first month, after which the SBF may charge employers a nominal fee, to be announced later.

Prevailing work permit rules, including a $35 charge for applications, apply.

The move comes amid calls from businesses for more flexibility on foreign manpower, after stricter rules on workers returning from China were introduced.

The tighter restrictions include needing to get MOM's approval for workers who have recent travel history to China, before they can enter Singapore.

Such workers also have to comply with a 14-day stay-home notice upon return.

coronavirus