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Singapore is one of the most sought after destinations for European expatriates. However, for a few months now it has become increasingly difficult for foreigners to have access to jobs. The city-state, a former bastion of liberalism, has recently dramatically changed its immigration policy by putting in place quotas, limiting the number of foreign staff in its companies. With an unemployment rate of 2%, the battle for talents has taken on an unprecedented importance.
Just a year ago the government started to get involved in the internal management of companies: regulating projects, limiting expenditure on research and training, etc. The state taking the reins of companies has obviously necessitated numerous internal reorganizations. But new laws tightening the conditions of access to employment for foreigners, coming into force last August, is undoubtedly the biggest challenge in this legislative onslaught. Various measures have dramatically altered each step in recruitment. Firstly, companies submitting a request for an Employment Pass (a work permit for foreign professionals working in managerial, executive or specialised jobs) must advertise the vacancy beforehand for two weeks on a government platform – The JobsBank. The criteria for obtaining an Employment Pass (education, professional experience, salary level, etc.) have also been revised upwards. Finally, quotas of up to 80% of locals have been established in companies. This new regulation is making access to necessary skills very difficult for firms. Given the economic dynamism of the city-state, companies based there regularly need new blood. Deprived of the pool of foreign talents, recruiters are experiencing a real shortage of skills.
Singapore today numbers 5.4 million inhabitants, of which a quarter are foreigners. In a context of virtually full employment (less than 2% unemployment) the battle for talents seems to have reached a new climax. Half the active population of Singapore is registered on LinkedIn. Traditional methods of sourcing talents no longer work. Recruiters and head hunters must, in fact, attract candidates who are already contacted several times per week, for various positions. Candidates possessing the skills needed by growing companies, who meet the new quota criteria and are available under the new regulations are indeed rare; Singaporeans and permanent residents hold all the aces. The staff turnover experienced by Singapore based companies bears witness to this.
The new rules in force have overturned the traditional recruitment market. Companies, HR managers and head hunters must learn to think differently. In order to overcome the difficulties, some sectors are exploring new forms of contract. The banking sector, for example, has frequent recourse to contracting in order to find the necessary skills. A candidate is seconded by the recruitment firm to the client, for a fixed period, via a service contract. However, recruitment firms themselves are also subject to quotas. So there is no miracle solution, simply adjustment to the new local regulations. In order to respond efficiently to the skills needs of companies, recruiters and head hunters must innovate; as much in the forms of contracts as in the means used to attract and retain talents. Singapore embodies the great human resources challenges of tomorrow – seeking out the best talents in intensifying global competition. Samuel Tamagnaud, Managing Director, Morgan Philips Executive Search Singapore