Your new boss is a Westerner and as he expands his team a high proportion of his new hires are expats too – this makes you suspicious that he’s recruiting people he feels more comfortable working with rather than the best talent. These kind of complaints, justified or otherwise, have been common in Singaporean banking circles – at least until recently.
Since the launch of the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) in August, recruiters tell us that they are hearing from fewer candidates who want to change jobs because they feel nationality discrimination is preventing them from moving up the ranks at their current bank. And earlier this week Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Manpower Amy Khor revealed that complaints to her department about employers hiring foreigners over locals had declined to 230 last year, from 310 in 2013.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) figures aren’t specific to the finance sector and many finance jobs are excluded (because they pay over S$144k) from the FCF’s requirement to advertise new roles to locals on the government’s online Jobs Bank for two weeks. But as we reported late last year, global banks in Singapore have been going beyond the letter of the law in an attempt to end the perception that they favour hiring international candidates. Barclays, for example, is telling agency recruiters to provide at least three Singaporean candidates per shortlist and its internal recruiters are undergoing “unconscious-bias” training to improve the way they interview and select new staff.
Banks’ task has admittedly been made easier by the fact that they aren’t increasing their Singapore headcounts as rapidly as they were five years ago, so there’s generally less need to import talent. And banks may also be more than a little worried about the consequences of being charged with discrimination. “We have pursued every single one of these cases to establish if they adopted discriminatory practices. When we find proof, MOM will not hesitate to take action,” said Minister Khor.
Interestingly, however, 40% of the 230 cases reported to MOM last year turned out to be unsubstantiated, suggesting that nationality discrimination is sometimes more perception than reality in Singapore.
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