SG govt says foreigners “existential” to success of finance sector
If you’ve been looking to move to Singapore as a foreign job seeker since the onset of Covid-19, you’ve likely had a hard time of it. Employment Passes (EPs) have been difficult to come by and EP salary thresholds have risen – including a new band just for the finance sector – as the Singapore government has launched a range of initiatives designed to support local hiring. Quarantine rules, although now relaxed for some countries, have added to the challenge of moving to Singapore.
In this context, budding expats may be cheered by sections of a new speech from Finance Minister Lawrence Wong. Speaking at an event to celebrate UBS's 50th anniversary in Singapore, Wong said the Republic will continue to stay open to foreign talent, ideas and investments, even as it does more to develop and grow its talent.
“This is important for us. In fact it is not just essential, it is existential, and that's why we are committed to this path,” said Wong. “Then we can continue to attract the best from overseas, to complement the strong core of Singaporeans in the workforce. And we can continue to compete and excel as one team... to take Singapore forward as a leading financial centre,” he added.
His words suggest that it may potentially become easier for finance professionals to obtain EPs in the future, at least when Covid restrictions on travel are further eased.
However, on the ground right now, recruiters say overseas candidates are rarely even on the radar of most employers in the finance sector. “In Hong Kong, obtaining work visas is still ok, but foreigners don’t even want to move because they’ll be stuck in quarantine for three weeks. Singapore has the opposite problem: there’s strong demand to relocate here, but the opportunities are limited because EPs are harder to come by than they used to be,” say a recruiter who operates in both markets.
As the flow of foreigners into Singapore dwindles during the pandemic, the job market for locals in the finance sector remains buoyant, especially in talent-short functions like tech. Salaries are soaring as a result, with some new joiners receiving pay rises of 25% to 40%.
Meanwhile, Wong touted UBS’s success in grooming local talent, noting the many Singaporeans who have progressed in their careers to take on senior jobs in the Swiss bank.
UBS has used funding from the government’s Jobs Support Scheme during the pandemic to launch a Singapore University Programme for Employability and Resilience, which takes on job-seekers as trainees in a year-long structured programme. Around 95% of the first cohort of about 90 trainees have landed permanent roles at UBS or other firms in the finance sector, some even before their training period ended, added Wong.