Firms applying for new Employment Passes (EPs) for foreign employees will need to pay them at least $4,500, from $3,900 previously.

The changes will take effect from September 1.

EP holders from the financial services sector will receive a minimum qualifying salary of $5,000, a move that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) says it supports.

According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in an August 27 statement, this is the first time that the ministry has set higher qualifying salaries for a specific sector.

Older and more experienced candidates in their 40s will be raised to around double of the minimum salary for the youngest applicants.

For EP renewals, the new criteria will take effect from May 1, 2021.

These are some of changes MOM is making to support higher employment opportunities for locals.

For foreigners on S Passes, the qualifying salary will be raised to $2,500 from $2,400. The changes will take place from October 1 for new applicants, and May 1, 2021, for renewal applicants.

The minimum qualifying salary for S Pass holders was raised from $2,200 to $2,300 from Jan 1, 2019, and to $2,400 from Jan 1, 2020.

The salary criteria for older and more experienced S Pass holders will also be raised accordingly.

MOM also said that the previously announced reductions in S Pass holders in the services, construction, marine shipyard, and process sectors will “proceed as planned”.

“The job market has more slack now, I urge employers to consider how best to rebalance your workforce composition to strengthen local PMET component,” says Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo in a Facebook post on August 27.

“With the extension of the Jobs Support Scheme and the Jobs Growth Incentive to help with wage costs, business [sic] can still come out on top,” Teo adds.

MOM added that the ministry will take into account whether employers have kept up support of local professional, managers, executives, and technicians (PMETs) in their employment and been responsive to government efforts to help recruit and train more Singaporean PMETs in evaluating EP and S Pass applications.

“Employers are expected to take fair hiring seriously and give due consideration to local job applicants regardless of their age, gender and ethnicity,” said the ministry.

However, the ministry is careful to ensure that Singapore remains and "open and connected hub for international businesses".

"We encourage businesses to grow, expand their presence in Singapore and create good job opportunities for our people. We value the contributions of our foreign workforce as they complement the local workforce in keeping Singapore an attractive host to investors from around the world," it adds.