Has Singapore’s tech industry got talent?

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Author: Faizal Bin Yaya, NUS

Border closures due to COVID-19 have disrupted Singapore’s connectivity with global trade and business networks. A foreign expert who had been integrated into Singapore society for many years returned to his home country.

Political pressure to limit the number of foreign workers is also increasing, especially in the service sector. In January 2021, the sector’s dependency ratio ceiling (which determines the ratio of foreign and local workers in a company) was lowered from 38% to 35%.

Before the pandemic, Singapore’s strong economic fundamentals and strategic location in the heart of Southeast Asia had proven attractive to big tech companies. During the “tech cold war” between the US and China, Singapore has continued to pursue a strategy of openness and innovation.

However, according to a survey by recruitment firm GlobalManpower, Singapore is the third country with a talent shortage out of 40 countries, with 84% of companies in Singapore reporting talent shortages. As a result, Singapore’s ‘hubbing’ strategy to attract multinationals is under threat.

Eighty of the world’s top 100 tech companies are based in Singapore, increasing pressure on a shrinking labor pool. While traditional tech companies such as Google, IBM and Microsoft have been in Singapore for several years, newer companies such as Zoom, Twitter, Paypal, Tencent, Alibaba and ByteDance have established operations in Singapore since the pandemic. doing.

Vivian Balakrishnan, minister in charge of the government’s Smart Nation initiative, stressed that the information and communication technology (ICT) sector will need an additional 60,000 workers by 2023. Education system in Singapore Only 2,800 ICT graduates are produced annually, and only one-third of Singapore’s technical workforce is local.

Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services estimates that Singapore will need 1.2 million This supply and demand mismatch means that most vacancies will continue to be filled by foreigners. recognize the competition, digital economy space Singapore introduced a new Tech Pass in January 2021, allowing established foreign tech entrepreneurs, leaders and professionals to work in Singapore.

But Singapore has to balance its need for foreign talent with local concerns about the rate of foreign employment. This is especially true for professional service jobs that are sought after by locals.

In response to voter concerns, the Singapore government has introduced several initiatives to develop local talent, such as the Singapore Global Executive Program (SGEP) in Budget 2022. their local staff.

In August 2022, Manpower Minister Thanh Si Leng introduced several policy initiatives to strengthen Singapore’s status as a talent hub. One of which he has is the Overseas Network & Expertise (ONE) Pass, his five-year work permit that will be introduced in January 2023. This allows eligible applicants to work for multiple companies in Singapore at the same time.

ONE Pass is available to employees with a monthly income of S$30,000 (US$21,000) or more, or who have made outstanding achievements in arts and culture, sports, science and technology, or research and academia. For new international candidates, the previous or future employer must have a market capitalization of $500 million or more. revenue At least $200 million.

Unlike Tech Pass, which is only for the tech sector, ONE Pass is applicable to all industries. This was in response to demand for global talent from other business sectors such as sports and the arts.

This aggressive recruitment strategy aims to create a virtuous cycle of economic development. The Singapore government emphasizes that the core of economic development rests on human capital skills, knowledge and creativity. ONE Pass is a key policy instrument in this attack.

However, global talent demand is so high that Singapore’s skilled professionals are also heading to greener pastures. In the 2022 Global Talent Competitiveness Index report compiled by INSEAD Business School, Singapore ranked him sixth among her 175 cities in attracting and developing talent. Singapore lagged behind San Francisco, Boston, Zurich, Seattle and Lausanne.

ONE Pass could help Singapore regain its competitiveness in several ways. It faces less scrutiny from voters because few locals compete in the employment categories it covers. At the same time, the government will engage global talent recruited through the pass as much as possible during their stay in Singapore.

ONE Pass aims to recruit global talent or ‘rainmakers’ in all sectors and forms a key element of Singapore’s talent recruitment strategy. These highly mobile professionals have the networks, deep skills and expertise that are essential ingredients for Singapore’s vision of an innovative economy. Business goes where there is talent, and talent goes where there is business. With a core of global talent embedded in the economy, Singapore can attract the best of both worlds.

Dr. Faizal Bin Yahya is a Senior Fellow in the Governance and Economics Division at the National University of Singapore Policy Institute.

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