Singapore intends to scrutinize more companies for suspected discriminatory hiring practices as the country seeks to ensure that its citizens are treated fairly in the employment and promotion process.

The country’s Ministry of Manpower placed 47 companies on a watch-list and will further investigate the conduct of 240 additional firms for possibly pre-selecting foreigners for jobs or not giving Singaporeans a fair chance at advertised positions, according to a government statement.

Singapore “does not tolerate unfair hiring practices, and employers who do not give locals a fair chance in hiring and promotion will face scrutiny and stiff penalties if found to have unfair hiring practices,” the ministry said.

The government did not name the companies added to the watch-list, though said the list includes banks, fund managers as well as management consulting firms and firms that provide project management and engineering services. Of the 47 companies under scrutiny, 30 are in the financial and professional services sector while the rest are in administrative and support services as well as manufacturing and education.

Companies were added to the Fair Consideration Framework watch-list because of their notably high shares of foreigners employed in the Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians categories, also known as PMET. Among issues found:

  • Eighteen firms have foreigners comprising more than half of their PMET workforce.
  • All 30 companies watch-listed in the financial and professional services sector have a high number of PMETs from single nationalities
  • Companies include both large and small firms and were found to have hired about 2,000 Employment Pass holders

Companies on the list will have their employment pass applications “closely scrutinized,” the government said, adding “those who are recalcitrant or uncooperative will have their work pass privileges cut back.” In addition, they could be blocked from hiring or renewing foreign workers for up to two years if found to have breached fair hiring requirements.

Earlier, the country’s Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said there would be updates to the employment framework to ensure fair treatment for workers. Teo also said that the country would reconvene the National Wages Council to update its position on wages amid the Covid-19 pandemic.