Why Singaporean Companies Are Finding It Hard to Hire Foreigners

For several years in a row now, Singapore has been ranked among the top 5 best cities to live and work in the world. It is also among the best, or probably the best place to work in Asia. Furthermore, the island state has a very open and competitive labour market. The majority of the Singaporean workforce is highly educated with 27% of the population having a degree or above. As a result, the competition for jobs is intense since job seekers not only compete with comparatively highly educated citizens and permanent residents but also top talents attracted from the international market.

The large decline in workers visa approval in 2017

The Singaporean government issued directives that pushed for fair consideration of locals for higher quality positions. This resulted in a drop in foreign workers’ visas. 2017 was marked by a huge drop in foreign workers’ visas–ten times more compared to 2016’s decline.

However, even with the continued decline in approvals of workers’ visas, professionals with these sought-after talents in the city-state still stand a chance of landing positions there. If you happen to be in industries such as cybersecurity, FinTech, IT, programming, and a few others, you will have better chances.

If you get a job offer, you would need to engage a visa agent to help you secure an employment pass. You may consider working with an agent who is even an expert in the company incorporation process, for example, Visa Express experts. This is so that they can advise you on setting up a private company there and help you do it when you decide to.

Fair Consideration Framework

Singapore has had very ambitious growth targets, but they have been hindered by the framework that has been pushing and encouraging firms to employ locals. The launch of the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) in 2014 heavily affected the work visa approvals. The framework comprises of a list of hiring requirements aimed at ensuring that locals have more access to job opportunities.

2018’s tighter ruling

While FCF made the hiring of foreign employees a bit difficult, a tighter ruling came in 2018 that aggravated the situation by giving stricter conditions for foreign employment pass applications. This left Singaporean companies in a position where they would have to make serious considerations on engaging locals ahead of foreign talent when contracting foreigners in the city-state.

The new additions to the 2018 ruling

The ruling, which took effect from July 2018, required companies that intend to hire foreign employees on an employment pass for a salary lower than $15,000 to henceforth advertise the vacancy in the National Job Bank’s portal for at least 14 days. The rule applied to companies with ten or more full-time employees.

The ruling was a revision of the earlier more lenient requirement of a minimum salary of $12,000 and employee size of not less than 25. The effect of the revision ultimately increased the number of companies that are subject to the requirement.

Extra measures

With those employment measures in place, there is a watchlist of companies suspected of violating the requirements for hiring, and the FCF has added 500 companies to that list. However, the requirements are turning out to be a real issue for tech companies that need to hire analysts, cybersecurity personnel, programmers, and other talents. Companies are facing a serious challenge since they need to expand, but the measures are limiting them. They are resorting to outsourcing while still having their headquarters in Singapore or choosing not to grow.


The stringent requirements for hiring foreign employees brings out the problem that Singapore is facing: an expanding economy and a dwindling population. Given that birthrates are low, there will not be enough local talent to serve in all of the roles demanded by the firms in the coming years. As such, even with the strict regulations, well-qualified and talented foreigners will manage to get hired by top companies provided they fulfil the skills and aptitude requirements. Industries such as FinTech, cybersecurity, and others will hire them.