Anti-discrimination laws high on Singapore's agenda

Updated: Oct 2, 2021

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted the need for effective anti-discrimination laws as part of his National Day Rally speech on August 29.

Ensuring fair hiring amongst both locals and foreigners will be the key goal of the new legislation, which will come into effect in 2022.

Along with this, Prime Minister Lee also pointed out the need to do more to help lower-wage workers.

Many middle-income locals are facing job anxiety due to the number of foreign work pass holders, and this has been exacerbated by the economic uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.

Firms in Singapore that want to hire foreign workers will first need to pay all of their local staff the “local qualifying salary” of at least SGD 1,400 per month. This legislation will come into effect from 1 September 2022. Employers who fail to follow will be notified by MOM about the underpayment of wages and will be given time to rectify the underpayment or risk being unable to apply or renew foreign work passes.

Employers will not be able to circumvent the new rules by hiring only part-time workers, as there is an equivalent qualifying wage for this type of work also. Firms will have to pay part-timers at least SGD 9 per hour if they want to recruit foreigners.

Lower-wage workers will get further support through the Progressive Wage Model, which helps to increase wages through upgrading skills and improving productivity. This system is already in place to cover job roles such as cleaners, security guards, and lift maintenance workers, and will be extended to include in-house workers from September 2022.

The model will also be extended to cover sectors such as retail, food services, and waste management workers. In addition, from 1 March 2023, a new Progressive Wage Model will be introduced to cover lower-waged workers in administration and driving jobs.

The progressive wage model has been around in Singapore since 2014 and is reported to have increase salaries of low-wage workers by 50%. Its extension will only create higher productivity amongst low-wage workers that should improve business profits for employers.

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