Ministry of Manpower unveil new points-based system for Employment Pass qualification

Pass the test.

Sulaiman Daud | March 04, 2022, 10:30 PM

From September 2023, foreigners who wish to work in Singapore with an Employment Pass (EP) will not only have to meet an increased minimum qualifying salary, but also garner a high-enough score under a new points-based system.

Announcing the new system called COMPASS (Complementarity Assessment Framework) in his speech in Parliament on March 4, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said, "it is designed to be a transparent system so that businesses have clarity and predictability for manpower planning."

New points-based system with four criteria

Tan mentioned that the NTUC, Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) and the Professionals, Managers and Executives (PME) task force recommended this point-based system last year.

Under COMPASS, pass applications will be judged based on four foundational criteria and two bonus criteria.

  • The candidate's salary relative to local PMET (PME plus technicians) wages in their respective sectors.
  • The candidate's qualifications.
  • The firm's national diversity, and whether the candidate improves the firm's national diversity.
  • The firm's support for local employment compared to its industry peers.

Two scenarios to earn bonus points

Beyond these criteria, Tan said the government is mindful of two scenarios that warrant special attention.

The first is if the candidate possesses the skills which the locals may lack, such as artificial intelligence developers and cybersecurity experts. Tan emphasised that this does not mean Singaporeans lack these skills, but Singapore doesn't have enough to fulfil the demand.

The second is if the firm is undertaking "ambitious innovation", hub or internationalisation activities in partnership with the government in line with Singapore's strategic economic priorities.

"In such cases, it will be in Singapore's interest to allow the firm to bring in this candidate," Tan explained.

The ministry will work closely with its tripartite partners and economic agencies to assess industry needs, so that COMPASS is kept up-to-date and responsive.

Opportunity to make up for a shortfall in one area

Tan also elaborated that if a candidate meets expectations for all four criteria, they would pass COMPASS.

However, if they fall below expectations in one criteria, the candidate needs to make up for it by exceeding expectations in another, or by scoring bonus points.

"All of the criteria, they are tradable," Tan explained. "None is a veto factor."

Tan gave an example:

"Consider a firm in the IT sector that scores below expectations on both support for local employment and diversity.

It (has) a low PMET share relative to its industry peers, and is bringing in another candidate whose nationality is already over represented in its firm. If the EP candidate only meets expectations, on salary and qualifications, and is performing a generic job role, the application will not score enough points to pass.

However, if the firm is bringing in a candidate in an area where skills shortages exists, the application could make up for it with bonus points.

Alternatively, the firm can hire a candidate from a nationality that improves its diversity and exceed expectations on diversity. Then this will allow the candidate to pass. In this way COMPASS incentivises firms with a weaker workforce profile to strengthen their local workforce and diversify, so as not to be disadvantaged.

At the same time, it still allows them to access highly-complementary EPs in areas where skill shortages exist."

One can score up to 20 points for each foundational criteria.

For bonus criteria, one can score up to 20 points for skills bonus and up to 10 points for strategic economic priorities bonus.

Future EP applications must score at least 40 points under COMPASS.

Majority of applications today would qualify under COMPASS

Tan emphasised that COMPASS is not designed to make it harder for businesses to obtain an EP.

He said a good majority of applications today would not have issues, which demonstrates that Singapore's businesses in general are progressive, and their policies thus far have brought in complementary workers under the EP.

It will kick in for new applications from Sep. 1, 2023 and for renewal applications from Sep. 1, 2024.

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Top image from K8 via Unsplash.