Because of a low birth rate, an ageing population, and lack of natural resources, Singapore requires foreigners to fill up the gap in its workforce to keep its economy in good working order. People from around the region, especially Malaysia, China, India, and the Philippines come to Singapore for job opportunities.
However, Singapore’s rigid systems are known to be discriminative in many ways. For example, the education system has been criticised for churning out information-memorising robots instead of talented people with the ability to be creative and have excellent problem solving skills. The exam-oriented system makes it very stressful for students, especially with high expectations to perform by parents, teachers, and peers. Schools’ streaming system has also been criticised for being discriminative towards the lower level streams due to lesser opportunities.
However, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has been piloting and improving the education system based on these critiques. For example, the reliance on examinations as a measure of success has been toned down.
Likewise, in Singapore’s workforce, there is a difference between being a foreign worker and a foreign talent. Below are the definitions of these two terms and where they fit into the workforce.
Foreign Worker: Foreign workers refers to semi-skilled or unskilled workers, usually in manual labor-esque positions. Examples include those in construction, manufacturing, and as domestic helpers. With close to 1 million people holding a work permit, foreign workers make up a sizable portion of the total workforce in Singapore. Foreign workers mostly come from India, China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar.
Foreign Talent: Foreign talent is a term for white-collar expatriates with professional qualifications or acceptable degrees. They usually come from the USA, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Canada, and more. Current top sectors are ICT (Technology), finance, and manufacturing.
This segregation has drawn ire for the perceived lesser roles foreign workers bring to contribute to Singapore’s economy. However, this has been addressed by the government by noting that there are little restrictions on the recruitment of foreigners, even for Foreign Workers. This can also be seen by the number of Foreign Workers as compared to Foreign Talent.
Even though Singapore is a top global city that has topped numerous rankings internationally and has implemented proven systems that generated its successes, the government has shown its adaptability to current changes. It is also important to note that tax treatment for expats in Singapore differs depending on their status as a Foreign Worker or a Foreign Talent, and it is essential to seek professional advice to understand the tax implications
Foreigners who want to work in Singapore
All foreigners who want to seize the opportunity to work in Singapore need to have a job offer in the country and a valid Work Pass. Work Passes are usually applied on behalf of the candidate by the employer or an authorised agent.
For Foreign Workers, they have to have a specific Work Permit, depending on the nature of their job. There are 4 types of Work Permits – Work Permit for migrant worker, Work Permit for migrant domestic worker, Work Permit for confinement nanny, and Work Permit for performing artiste.
For Foreign Talent, there is a variety of Work Passes, also depending on the job and its respective salaries. Types of passes are S Pass, Employment Pass, EntrePass, Personalised Employment Pass, Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass.
Depending on eligibility, Foreign Talent may bring their immediate family members into Singapore on Dependant’s Pass and/or Long-Term Visit Pass.
For more information on Work Passes, contact Immigration@SG (IASG) at +65 6493 1830. IASG is a leading Singapore-based immigration consultancy firm and an authorised agent for Work Pass applications.