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Will the Jobs Bank really make a difference?

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As at the start of August, employers in Singapore are required to publish all available job postings for 14 days – for roles paying less than $12,000 – on the new National Jobs Bank before they are able to apply for an employment pass (EP).

“Providing better jobs and diverse opportunities to meet Singaporeans’ aspirations are the ultimate objectives of economic growth. Even as we remain open to foreign manpower to complement our local workforce, all firms must make an effort to consider Singaporeans fairly,” Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said about the Jobs Bank earlier this year.

Singapore has long struggled to find locals to fill roles, which has often resulted in the employment of foreign talent. While this is not the government’s first attempt at managing the balance between local and foreign talent, this latest push puts more pressure on firms to build a more balanced workforce.

But do senior HR practitioners here believe the Jobs Bank will make a difference?

One regional HR lead believes the Jobs Bank will not “have a meaningful impact”.

“It’s government lip service,” said the senior HR professional, who did not want to be named. “It’s not going to have a meaningful impact on anyone as long as the only requirement is to post it for two weeks. The only impact that Singapore can have are the approvals of the EPs.”

READ MORE: What you need to know about the National Jobs Bank

He adds local companies aren’t hiring foreigners because they are racist against Singaporeans. Rather, it’s either because the foreign talent is more affordable or more effective.

“For us, it’s the latter, but we have fortunately been about to hire mostly Singaporeans or PRs (permanent residents).”

On the other hand, an HR director from a global internet company sees the Jobs Bank as a sign of a more progressive Singapore.

“I see the Jobs Bank as a positive because it’s forcing Singaporeans to look at opportunities that are available. I think it will be a little lax in the beginning, and when the enforcement happens, people will consider local talent even more seriously,” he said.

“[This is] partly because of the enforcements, but also because you’re getting local talent applying for jobs and you have to pay attention to them.”

But he added the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) needs to “stay on top of not making this so bureaucratic that employers feel there is too much that they need to do”.

“I would encourage the MOM to come up with more automation, technology and guidance as opposed to being imperative.”

Other HR leaders believe there is a bigger value in the Jobs Bank.

“It’s important to not look at the Jobs Bank as a one-off solution. It is a very useful source of real-time data that can be used for many things,” an HR director from the technology sector said.

“With the data, we can get a very good sense of the demand, the mismatch within the labour market and how we can address it. We will also be able to see where are the jobs that Singaporeans don’t want to fill.”

This is something Foo Chek Wee, group HR director for Southeast Asia and Hong Kong at ZALORA, agreed with.

“The Jobs Bank allows for a baseline to be established,” he said. “Without a baseline, we can’t measure how far we’ve progressed. It’s a nip in the bud before the situation gets better or worse, and will proactively create a healthy mix of foreign and local talent in Singapore.”

What do you think? Will the Jobs Bank create a Singaporean-first workforce, or is it the first step in better understanding the needs of the country’s labour market? Share your comments with us below.

Image: Shutterstock

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