Singapore’s push for global jobs may reduce proportion of locals in finance sector

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Singapore’s push for global jobs may reduce proportion of locals in finance sector

About 75% of new jobs in Singapore financial services are currently being filled by locals, but a push to bring more global roles to the city state may reduce that percentage, a top official from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said today.

There were 22,000 net new jobs created in the Singapore finance sector between 2015 and 2019, MAS deputy managing director Jacqueline Loh said in a speech at a virtual job fair organised by the Institute of Banking and Finance. Of these roles, 16,000 – or 3 out of every 4 jobs – went to Singaporeans, she said. And 15,000 of the local positions created were at salaries within the top 40% range. The median monthly income of locals in the sector last year was S$7,600, well above the national median of S$4,600.

Despite the pandemic, MAS estimates that employment rose by about 1,500 during the first half of this year, and that locals continued to take up at least three out of every four jobs created.

Loh, however, warned that Singapore may not always be able to hit the 75% mark for local finance jobs. “One of the key prongs of our developmental strategy is to attract more global and regional headquarter functions of the FIs [financial institutions] here to serve the broader Asian region.  When that happens, it will involve FIs bringing in a diversity of talent from their global workforce to build up these new functions here, and this may cause the proportion of Singaporeans in these FIs to come under pressure,” she said.

Singapore must “remain open and will continue to welcome global talent that complement our workforce”, said Loh. “With more global and regional functions anchored here and as the sector transforms with digitalisation and new growth engines, FIs might need to bring in foreigners with the experience and skills that are not yet available locally,” she added.

This announcement will be welcome by recruitment agencies and banks in Singapore, who are focused on hiring locals but who are also encountering talent shortages for technology roles such as AI, data analytics, and cyber security, some of which need to be filled by foreign candidates.

Moreover, as Loh explained, anchoring more global and regional functions in the Republic also brings “more growth, good jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans” and it opens up possibilities for Singaporeans to gain overseas exposure within global firms, with some taking leadership positions overseas.

Loh stressed that the drive to attract more global and regional roles to Singapore runs concurrently with the ongoing focus on “building a strong pipeline of local talent”. Even as firms bring in foreigners to plug immediate skills gaps, they should also “actively identify and groom Singaporeans with high potential for leadership roles”, said Loh

She advised financial institutions to “review their hiring practices” to ensure compliance with the Fair Consideration Framework, a 2014 law that ensures employers prioritise Singaporeans for jobs. “The review should also look into decision-making policies for the hiring of foreign professionals. For example, junior or non-specialist openings should generally not be open to foreigners unless the firm has established that locals cannot fill or be trained to fill such roles,” she added.

If a financial institution is suspected to have discriminatory hiring practices due to the make-up of its workforce, it will be subject to additional scrutiny in its Employment Pass applications, said Low. This happened just last week when 30 employers from the financial services and professional services sectors were put on the government’s Fair Consideration Framework Watchlist.

Photo by Lim Sf on Unsplash

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