Explained: Singapore’s latest global talent policy changes and work passes

Andrew McNeilis, Managing Director Asia Pacific at global recruitment agency Phaidon International, gives his view on the latest policy changes announced on 29 August 2022 (including the new Overseas Networks & Expertise pass), and what opportunities they bring in a post-pandemic world.

By Andrew McNeilis | 15 Sep 2022

Singapore recently announced a slew of policy changes aimed at attracting top foreign talent. This includes the introduction of the Overseas Networks & Expertise pass, a five-year visa for top talent. This supplements its existing passes, including the EntrePass and the Tech Pass.

Here’s breaking down what this means for talent looking to move to Singapore and businesses looking to attract top talent.

The benefits of the Overseas Networks & Expertise pass

1. Five years of stability

Singapore is seen as the gateway to Asia Pacific and the respective economies within the region. Therefore the Overseas Networks & Expertise pass, once it kicks in on 1 January 2023, will be very appealing to firms seeking to attract top talent.

The pass allows for five years of stability, meaning professionals considering the move to Singapore who have family will have a timeframe of certainty to plan their relocation within. Should they decide to renew their pass, there is also a possibility of extending it by another five years, subject to eligibility criteria. In addition, spouses will be able to obtain a Letter of Consent (LOC), which permits them to work in Singapore.

2. A fast turnaround time

There is also the fact that the Overseas Networks & Expertise pass approval is meant to be very quick – within 4 weeks. There is no need for Complementarity Assessment COMPASS Framework nor the Fair Consideration Framework job advertising requirements, meaning a speedy turnaround. This is hugely beneficial to companies as they can get ahead in such a competitive talent market.

3. Progression talent within Singapore

The Overseas Networks & Expertise pass enables talent to move technically under their own means to employers. For those businesses, they will need to be hot on ensuring they offer senior, high performing talent a great employment experience because of the autonomy the pass brings professionals. The reality is that the best talent has lots of options and the five-year timeframe of the pass, plus the ability to renew, means that businesses can secure talent long term, paving the way for career progression also within Singapore.

Other policies change to secure talent

Besides the latest initiative of the Overseas Networks & Expertise pass, Singapore has also been applying significant policy changes that eases international talent movements into Singapore.

Singapore’s approach to hiring international talent and the corresponding visa policies in place have been incredibly dynamic in the true sense of the word. During Covid-19, the focus was on safe measures and job security for Singaporeans, and the reality was that during the pandemic hiring international talent was not an option.

Post-Covid-19 there has been an evolution. There is clearly a desire and acceptance that Singapore requires skills that are not yet present in the country, but for many businesses hiring locally is the first port of call. It makes commercial and practical sense, from a speed point of view but also for easier access and certainty.

1. Reducing Employment Pass processing time

For one, the processing time for Employment Pass has been reduced drastically to 10 business days. This short turnaround – approval or otherwise – is a huge help to businesses and should be applauded.

2. Increasing Employment Pass duration for tech professionals with skills in shortage

Secondly, the duration of Employment Pass for tech talent with in-demand skills, has been extended from the usual 2 years to 5 years. This refers to experienced professionals in tech occupations on the COMPASS shortage Occupation List – to be announced in the coming months – earning a fixed monthly salary of $10,500.

This is also a boon to companies looking to secure top talent for longer periods, and also offers more stability to talent relocating to Singapore, and things should be clearer when the shortage Occupation List is released in the coming months.

Such policies have accelerated the ability to hire the right international talent swiftly. Delays can be incredibly detrimental to the hiring process, as both businesses and professionals want to be in an environment with maximum certainty and control.

Business-critical talent are exposed to global opportunities and as a talent partner we must remind ourselves and the companies we represent that Singapore is competing for these professionals on a global basis. Amplifying speed and certainty is a crucial action.

Advice on looking for career opportunities in Singapore

Singapore is a wonderful place to live and work, and whenever relocating is always important to research and ask for guidance.

1. Familiarise yourself with local labour laws

Firstly, familiarise yourself with the labour laws and how – as international talent – you might secure entry. Have enough awareness and knowledge to know if your specific skillset and experience is in demand and worthy of a visa. A useful resource to reference is the work pass comparison table that the Singapore Global Network has put together.

You will position yourself well with any firm looking to hire internationally by being able to articulate clearly what skills and capabilities you bring. For this reason it is vital your CV and job search reflects this.

2. Research all benefits

Secondly, beyond employment, you should do your research – be smart and work out whether this is culturally where you, or importantly you and/ or your family, want to thrive in. Again, do your homework – research housing, schools, and health. Talk to specialist talent partners, look at government websites, and ask your own network for insights. For more tips on how you may go about doing this, I’ve put together some tips here.

For example, at Phaidon International, we have produced a Relocation Guide and our consultants work in specific niches so they can not only advise you on roles, salary and benefits, but also connect you with those who made the transition successfully. In addition, the Singapore Global Network also offers a series of guides that gives you insights into what life in Singapore could be like for you and your family.

How to attract business-critical talent to Singapore

All these new talent policies will only help Singapore secure the very best talent. Low tax, family friendly culture, excellent healthcare, and a safe law-abiding society with excellent legal recourse for business are hugely attractive features that benefit businesses and international talent alike looking to move to Singapore.

There is, however, a universal truth that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. Here are some of the challenges as a leading talent partner that we have found that could hold back attracting talent to Singapore.

1. Rental Prices

The influx of talent from Shanghai and Hong Kong coming into Singapore has been well documented. This has, alongside construction delays due to Covid-19, impacted the price of accommodation.

Short-term, there is no doubt that access and the price of rent has become a headline, and a key consideration for the best professionals with lots of international choices. If the cost of daily life eats up the low taxation benefits, this could present some challenges. As we move into 2023 perhaps rental price hikes will calm, but if not is something that candidates will need to consider as they make the move.  

Regarding availability of spaces at international schools, demand remains high at brand-name schools with Singapore’s growing popularity among global talent. However, it is worth noting that there are plenty of options available outside these top favourite international schools. For a list of schools and more details on their curriculum, refer to this article by Expat Living.

2. “Dual career” families

The vast majority of families have two parents who work, and previously the Letter of Consent (LOC) was very helpful because it entitled a spouse to work in Singapore. Without this, great talent could potentially be put off because they have no guarantee of envisioning moving their family to Singapore with them. For a start, holders of the new Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass are entitled to obtaining a LOC for spouses, and we are hopeful that future policies may reintroduce the LOC, possibly with heightened parameters.

Looking ahead to the job market in South-East Asia

Tech continues to be a highly competitive environment across South-east Asia. The Financial Services sector continues to have strong demand for key tech and transformation skills, whereas some of the retail /e-commerce players have had less demand with occasional lay-offs.

Employers should be wary that a shortage of talent leads to some challenges. For example, when an employee resigns we are seeing astronomical levels of counter offers from their incumbent employer, with salaries, benefits and titles being thrown around to prevent a professional from leaving. The speed with which hiring firms are acting also reflects the talent shortage, but presents great opportunities for candidates seeking opportunities in Singapore.

Regionally, we are seeing tech talent moving from hubs such as Vietnam, Hong Kong and mainland China. Importantly such talent is agnostic towards particular industry sectors – in simple terms great tech talent can move from Life Sciences to Supply Chain with ease due to their highly transferable set of technical skills.

About Phaidon International

Phaidon International is the talent partner of choice for clients and highly skilled professionals, securing business-critical talent worldwide across six specialist brands where a relentless supply demand imbalance exists: 

Selby Jennings – Financial Sciences & Services

LVI Associates – Engineering & Infrastructure

DSJ Global – Supply Chain

EPM Scientific – Life Sciences

Glocomms – Technology

Larson Maddox – Regulatory & Legal

Want to learn more about Singapore's work passes?

About Andrew McNeilis

Andrew has over 30 years’ commercial experience working in strategic leadership roles across organizations ranging from start-ups to public companies throughout Europe, Asia Pacific, the Middle East, and the Americas. He also enjoyed a previous career serving as an Infantry Army Officer in a variety of operational theatres, teaching him the value of public service, leading people, operational planning and execution, achieving missions and exceeding expectations.

Connect with him here.

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