How S’poreans will benefit from top global talents, explained by Tan See Leng

The words local, Singapore and Singaporeans appeared more than a hundred times in Manpower Minister Tan See Leng’s ministerial statement on strengthening Singapore’s position as a global hub for talent via the Overseas Networks and Expertise (ONE) Pass.

Indeed, Minister Tan only had one thing in mind when he spoke in Parliament today (Sep 12).

“As I’ve said, and they’re not motherhood statements, the core of what we do, whether it is Compass, whether it is the ONE pass, whether it is the raising of the minimum qualifying salaries, the local qualifying salary at the work pass levels, everything we do is focused on about is that singular objective of how we can continue to provide opportunities, good pay good career progression for our Singapore local core,” he said. breaks down his speech and explains how Singaporeans can benefit from the ONE Pass.

A virtuous cycle

“At its core, economic development is human capital development.”

Minister Tan noted that it’s the skills, knowledge and ingenuity of a country’s people that generate economic prosperity and attract businesses.

The talents and teams these talents develop around them in turn attract more businesses and higher value activities.

This, in a nutshell, is the virtuous cycle that Singapore intends to grow.

“Countries that manage to develop and anchor talent benefit from this virtuous cycle, which benefits everyone in the workforce,” he added.

Those who don’t develop will stagnate or fall behind and thus getting the talent strategy right is more critical for Singapore as people are our only real resource, he said.

Calling such global talents “rainmakers”, Minister Tan added that Singapore can tap on their networks, grow teams around them and learn from their expertise to level up our industries and workforce.

How the local workforce can benefit

Other than the salary criterion of S$30,000, Singapore is also looking out for talent with outstanding achievements.

“We are looking at individuals who have demonstrated exceptionally high levels of achievement in the fields of arts, sports, science, and academia, who can help us push new frontiers, draw in greater investments and interest to grow our local ecosystem, and most importantly, create a very diverse range of opportunities for Singaporeans.”

Minister Tan then cited the example of sports, where current and former world-class athletes who may wish to set up operations in Singapore, from which own local athletes, coaches, and sports ecosystem can benefit.

Some MPs asked what the expected impact on local employment is going to be.

On this, the manpower minister said that the Government will engage all Pass holders to better gauge if they have been contributing in meaningful ways. However, he was quick to add that the relationship between talent, innovation and economic growth is “more than a simple, linear one”.

By having hard KPIs, the minister said that Singapore will be “missing the forest for the trees”.

Some may be employees, bringing new business units to Singapore; some may set up their own companies, generating employment; and others may be here to teach or advise local enterprises, he said.

Helping locals succeed

“Our policies to attract global talent are also meant to accelerate the development of our own local talent pool,” he said.

He cited a few examples:

First, the Government has designed the foreign workforce policies, such as COMPAASS, to incentivise companies to develop a strong local workforce

Second, the Industry Transformation Maps mapped out growth plans for 23 sectors across the economy, identifying in-demand jobs and developed jobs and skills to build up local talent pipeline for such jobs.

Third, the Jobs Transformation Maps provide insights on the impact of technology on the industry and workforce, allowing firms to redesign job roles and equip workers with necessary skills.

Lastly, the tripartite partnership allows workers to reskill and upskill for the jobs of the future.

Another way to helping the local workforce is to increase global and regional exposure. To this end, the Government has a host of programmes such as MAS’ Asian Financial Leaders scheme, SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative and the new Singapore Global Executive Programme, to support this effort.

Transferring of skills to local workforce

Minister Tan said that companies have programmes to transfer skills to less experienced employees as it is in their interest to do so.

Firms can tap on SkillsFuture, the Enterprise Development Grant and the Capability Transfer Programme.

At Budget this year, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, also announced that S$70 million has
been set aside for the NTUC Company Training Committee (CTC) Grant. Companies that set up CTCs can tap on this grant for their business and workforce transformation projects, said the manpower minister.

Noting that skills transfer is not a simple process, he said that the Government’s approach is to put in place the right ecosystem of policies that incentivises businesses to select complementary foreign workers, while building up a strong Singaporean Core.

In closing, he reiterated the goal of creating opportunities for Singaporeans to grow within and benefit from.

“We do not live in a zero-sum world. Attracting and anchoring global talent in Singapore does not mean less opportunities for locals,” he said.

Indeed, long-term unemployment in Singapore is now at 0.8 per cent, close to pre-Covid levels.

And Singaporeans can now pursue a wide range of careers with higher salaries due to this global mindset.

“Many Singaporeans are working in or with these global companies, alongside global talent. And the same companies often post Singaporeans abroad, giving them opportunity to develop new networks
and deeper experience.”