MORE help, including up to 40 per cent wage support, will be given to employers to hire local professionals, managers and executives in the continuing effort to boost the Singaporean core in the workforce.
At the same time, bosses will face tougher scrutiny and rules in recruiting foreign PMEs, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say told reporters on Wednesday.
Employment protection for PMEs will also be beefed up with expanded coverage of claims and workers as well as the removal of the salary cap.
These moves were welcomed by both the National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore Business Federation (SBF).
A key move in Wednesday's announcement is a wage subsidy which will complement the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP), introduced in 2007 to help PMEs make a career switch. It comes under a two-year pilot Career Support Programme (CSP) to secure jobs for mature Singaporean PMEs.
To be managed by the Workforce Development Agency (WDA), the wage support is aimed at encouraging employers to hire mature workers that have been jobless for at least six months. It works out to a subsidy of 40 per cent of monthly gross pay for the first six months for PMEs aged 50 and above recruited by the employer, capped at S$2,800 monthly.
In the following six months, the subsidy would be reduced to 20 per cent capped at S$1,400 monthly.
For workers aged 40 to 50, the wage support will be 20 per cent of gross pay capped at S$1,400 for the first six months and 10 per cent capped at S$700 for the following six months.
Over the 12 months, the employer and worker could get to know each other and see if they meet each other's needs, according to Mr Lim.
Unlike the PCP, which requires more intensive re-training and starting from the bottom with a big pay-cut, he said that the CSP was intended for mature workers who continue to stay in the same industry or can still apply their old skills in the new job.
Still, to help these workers settle in their new employment, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a press release that employers under the CSP must also provide structured on-the-job training, or send the workers for external training.
The CSP will kick in from Oct 1 for eligible PMEs who register with WDA Career Centres and e2i.
MOM said that the WDA would also work with and give incentives to private search and placement firms to help PMEs assess more job opportunities.
"Individuals can seek the help of these firms directly, without going through WDA," it said. This initiative will also be launched on Oct 1 and run for two years.
Also from Oct 1, employers must publish the salary range of jobs they post in the Jobs Bank to meet the Fair Consideration Framework's advertising requirement. MOM will reject applications for Employment Passes (EP) if the required job ads that go with the application fail to state the salary range.
"This enhancement will make the job terms clearer to Singaporean job seekers and improve labour market transparenty," it said.
MOM will further step up its scrutiny of EP applications for employers with a "weaker Singapore core". They will be required to submit more information to check whether Singaporeans were considered fairly.
The information may include the number of applications submitted by Singaporeans, whether they were interviewed for the vacancy and the employer's current share of locals in PMEs and career counselling.
According to Mr Lim, there are about 150 firms from industries such as IT, finance, consultancy and services on MOM's watchlist.
MOM already bans applicants found to have forged qualifications from working in Singapore. With immediate effect, it will further reject work pass applications that contain "doubtful" qualifications, such as those from degree mills.
"We will also pay more attention to the relevant experience of EP and S pass applicants, especially those applying for professional occupations," MOM said. It plans "to progressively encourage and facilitate the transfer of expertise to Singaporean PMEs over time".
Pending the greenlight from Parliament, MOM wants to set up the Employment Claims Tribunal in the first quarter of 2016. PMEs earning over S$4,500 monthly and not covered by the Employment Act can turn to the tribunal to settle any employment claims and disputes.
MOM on Wednesday said that the government, employers and unions now want to expand the coverage under the Tripartite Mediation Framework to include re-employment and employment statutory issues; lift the S$4,500 salary cap; and include rank-and-file union members in non-unionised firms.
While endorsing MOM's new measures, SBF cautioned against labour market rigidity that would dent Singapore's competitive edge.
"Both mature PMEs and companies should not view the newly established CSP as permanent wage support because the programme is just a temporary provision to facilitate the transition for both sides," said SBF chairman SS Teo. "The desired outcome is that the mature PMEs should continue to be employed by the same employer aftet this transition arrangement has lapsed."