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New initiatives to lure talented foreign professionals

By Julia Ng, Channel NewsAsia
18 May 2007 1921 hrs

SINGAPORE: The Manpower Ministry (MOM) has announced two new initiatives to attract more talented foreign professionals to work in Singapore.

From 1 June, it is raising the S-Pass quota for mid-skilled manpower from the current 10% to 15%.

And from December, it is introducing a new Work Holiday Programme (WHP) to give bright university students from overseas an experience of living and working in Singapore for up to six months.

"A positive experience of living and working in Singapore under the Programme would encourage some of them to work here when they graduate, or at a later stage in their careers. Many countries already have the Work Holiday Programme. So this is not a new idea but we're starting it now. And it will help enhance Singapore's reputation as a talent destination, valued for its working and living experiences. And we will work with relevant agencies to operationalise and promote this scheme worldwide," said Manpower Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen.

Among the professionals Singapore wants to attract are the healthcare workers.

According to a UN study, the number of residents in Singapore aged 65 years or older will multiply three times to about 900,000 in 2030.

This makes up about one in five residents.

And in about 50 years, Singapore will be the fourth oldest country in the world in terms of the median age of the population.

A rapidly ageing population calls for more healthcare workers.

The Government is also promoting Singapore as a regional medical hub and this will attract more medical travellers.

To meet the demand for medical manpower, the Government is ramping up efforts to produce more local doctors and attracting qualified ones from 140 foreign medical institutions.

But the Manpower Ministry wants to do more than that. So it is introducing the WHP to reach out to young students and graduates from overseas.

The WHP will start with 2,000 places for students and graduates from universities in Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, the UK and US.

It is open to those aged between 17 and 30. The WHP pass is valid for six months and those who wish to work during this period are not restricted to any type of job. They will also not be subject to any minimum salary requirement.

The Manpower Ministry however stresses that participants must be able to support themselves during their stay in Singapore, and show proof of exit after six months.

More information on the programme is available on the Ministry's website at http://www.mom.gov.sg, or they could ring the Call Centre at 6438 5122.

Dr Ng was speaking at the Singapore Medical Council Physician's Pledge Affirmation ceremony.

Speaking to reporters later, the Minister said the recommendations by a tripartite committee studying the issue of employing older workers are very practical.

The committee had announced that Singapore is legislating a law within five years to keep workers hired beyond the age of 62.

Dr Ng said this will allow enough time for both employers and workers to adjust.

But Dr Ng is against the idea of imposing penalties for employers who flout the law.

The Minister said this would not stop some from trying to circumvent the law.

He said the key to re-employment is to have flexibility for both workers and employers.

Dr Ng said: "This re-employment legislation is one way of raising the re-employment age. But it also allows flexibility. Just raising the retirement age means that workers usually must be kept in the same job, practically. But the re-employment legislation says, flexibility on both sides. For the employee, he may not want to be in the same job. It may be too strenuous and he may want to change the job within that company. So, that allows flexibility for both the employer and employee. So, it's a very practical way. Let's see how it works out on the ground. I don't think we want to fix our mindset. Let's see what's the most effective way of doing this." - CNA/ir

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