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Friday, November 30, 2012

S Pass workers may face tightening measures: Tan Chuan-Jin

SINGAPORE: The government may tighten measures to check the inflow of foreign workers with mid-level skills.

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said he will provide an update on this as early as the first quarter of next year.

He hinted that foreign workers in the S Pass category may face further tightening measures as early as the first quarter of 2013.

S Pass holders are mid-level workers earning at least S$2,000 a month.

Statistics from the Manpower Ministry showed that the number of S Pass holders rose from nearly 114,000 last year to about 128,000, as of June this year.

For the first half of this year, the number of Employment Pass holders dipped from 175,400 to 174,700.

Mr Tan said it is likely that companies are using S Passes to bring in more junior-level professionals, managers and executives (PMEs).

He said: "I've mentioned before the S Pass is a sector we are not totally comfortable with, because there's a lot of transference of Employment Passes into S Passes and we are now exploring measures to perhaps tighten that segment."

Speaking at the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) convention on Thursday, Mr Tan explained the government is neither trying to close the tap completely nor reducing the current numbers.

"The tap was turned on and running in the past, at a fairly fast-flowing rate," said Mr Tan.

"The tap continues to run, but what we've done is to actually turn the tap to move at a much slower pace that we think is sustainable."

The government has always been moderating the increases to a sustainable rate, one that enables businesses to grow, he said.

Mr Tan said his ministry will continue to listen to feedback from businesses and exercise flexibility where possible, as long as it does not compromise Singapore's long term objectives.

He also assured businesses the government will manage the pace of manpower tightening carefully.

Mr Tan noted that if tightening is too aggressive, many businesses will fold and if it is too slow, the economy will lose the momentum for change, so a careful balance is needed.

To moderate the impact on companies, the government makes incremental changes and announce these changes early and provide time for companies to adjust.

Mr Tan also explained why the government tightened foreign worker supply.

He said Singapore cannot continue to rely on low-cost foreign labour to grow the economy.

The price advantage that companies offer cannot be based just on lower cost, as Singapore cannot out-compete its neighbours, who will always have more ready access to low-cost labour.

Mr Tan also said over-reliance on low-cost labour imposes hidden costs on the economy and on the society.

It reduces motivation to innovate, raise productivity and move up the value chain.

Mr Chan Chong Beng, the president of Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME) said: "If (companies) want to survive, these are the realities they have to face. Asking for more workers is out of date."

He added: "So I think SMEs should give up that idea and look forward to the next level of support that the government can give and look very carefully again to productivity because this is the only way for them to survive in time to come."

Mr Tan said the government will continue to support SMEs to grow by being more productive.

Early findings from a recent study commissioned by the National Productivity and Continuing Education Council (NPCEC) involving 263 SMEs showed many know what kind of support is available.

While more than nine on 10 SMEs polled were aware of the government productivity drive, only slightly more than one in 10 said they eventually benefit the schemes.

Some of the reasons cited include having to deal with a tedious application process.

Mr Tan said over the next few months, the government will look at how to administer such schemes better.

Mr Chan said productivity schemes should be made simpler to understand and wanted to see more government support.

"Most of the SMEs do not have cash to go into a grant and many a time they have to fork out the money," said Mr Chan.

"So, the government should also look into areas in which how the SMEs can be helped financially to kick start any grants that they have."

- CNA/ck/xq

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone5

Monday, November 26, 2012

Stopping sexual harassment at work

Stopping sexual harassment at work
AsiaOne | Sun, Nov 25, 2012
SINGAPORE - From being groped to being called a 'piece of ass' -- these are some instances of given by victims of sexual harassment at the workplace that have been compiled by women's group AWARE.

A research study conducted by the group in 2007 - 2008 showed that more than half of 500 people randomly surveyed experienced some form of workplace sexual harassment. Calls to the group about this type of harassment trumped the number of calls made about domestic violence in this year alone.

54.4 per cent reported that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment. 25 per cent knew of other people who had experienced some form of sexual harassment, 30 per cent of those who had been harassed indicated that they had been harassed several times, and 12 per cent of those who had been harassed had threatened with forced termination of their jobs if they did not comply.

The survey also showed there were more female victims (79 per cent) than male victims (21 per cent) and harassers often target junior employees or foreign workers who depend on their job to stay in Singapore.

Laws are limited to deal with offenders

In response, Aware has launched the Sexual Harassment Out (Shout) campaign to highlight the problem of sexual harassment in the Singapore workplace, and give victims a platform to share their experiences anonymously. Companies are also asked to their commitment to implement policies against sexual harassment.

It is also calling for written laws to equip employers to deal specifically with this issue and allow victims to seek assistance in a 70-page report on workplace sexual harassment released today.

In the report, Aware said that most companies do not have any sexual harassment policies or procedures in place, as there is no statutory obligation on employers to do so.

Currently, victims of sexual harassment can complain to their employers or their unions, file a complaint in the Subordinate Courts or lodge a civil suit.

If they have been molested, or their modesty outraged, or even raped, they can file a police report.

But even as these offences can be investigated by police, non-physical harassment such as being subjected to unwelcome or lewd comments are treated as non-seizable offences. This means that police will not be able to arrest the offender.

And often, victims find that they have little recourse in the end and most end up resigning, as civil remedies are expensive and do not award damages for emotional distress and psychological damage, and criminal cases are difficult to prove beyond reasonable doubt.

The report also said that Singapore is obliged under the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to enact legislative provisions on sexual harassment in the workplace and in educational institutions.

The Aware report also cited real-life case studies of victims of sexual harassment, who were unable to bring the offenders to justice. Here are three examples:

Case no. 1: Molested and ashamed Q, a Vietnamese woman employed as an administrative executive, was molested twice by her manager. The first time he kissed her on the forehead and said it was part of the training. She did not report it as she did not want to make an issue of this.

The second time, he locked her in a room, pinned her against the wall and tried to lift up her skirt. She eventually managed to escape and ran out of the room.

Thereafter, the manager tried to touch Q whenever he saw her. Q did her best to avoid him in the office.

Q was miserable at work but did not report or tell anyone in the office as she was on an “S Pass” and was afraid to lose her job. She was also not very fluent in English and was not very comfortable communicating in English.

At home, she cried to herself during the period of the harassment. She did not tell her husband what happened as she felt ashamed about the incident.

Her husband was deeply concerned and managed finally to get her to tell him about what had happened. He persuaded her to report to the employer, to make a police report and to come to AWARE.

Case no. 2: Sexually abused T, an administrative clerk, was sexually abused by her boss for close to a year.

She did not report to the police for a long time as she was the sole breadwinner of the family and she was afraid of losing her job during the economic recession.

The company was a very small business run by her boss and his partner.

Initially, the perpetrator touched her breasts and knees. This then escalated to the perpetrator forcing T to perform oral sex on him more than once. Each time she struggled but did not call the police.

About a year after the first incident, the perpetrator tried to rape her. He failed but ejaculated on her.

It was only at this point that she decided to report to the police and to come to AWARE.

Case no. 3: Lusty boss disillusions young employee P, a Chinese national who graduated from a top US University was employed by the Singapore office of an international bank. P was recruited as part of an elite group of graduate trainees and had signed on to a one year contract with the bank. She was contractually obliged to compensate the bank if she terminated the contract prematurely.

P was forcibly french-kissed and molested by her senior boss after an office party. He continued to harass her for a few months by touching her waist, shoulder and neck and making inappropriate comments about her dressing and his lust for her.

P was distressed and upset by the constant harassment and experienced repeated nightmares and insomnia during this period.

P wanted to resign but felt trapped by her one year commitment and the penalty she would have to pay for premature termination.

P told her direct supervisor about the harassment. The direct supervisor told P that she could not do anything about it as the harasser was “too senior” within the firm and very influential in the industry.

P consulted a lawyer who advised her that there was little that she could do legally and that she should report the case to the Police.

P did not want to report the case to the Police as she wanted to continue working in the industry and did not want to risk having a “bad” reputation.

P then came to AWARE who assisted her to report the case directly to HR. She managed to get some monetary compensation from her employer but was so disillusioned by her experience that she left Singapore and her job to start afresh in a new country.


Salaries in Singapore!

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Salaries in Singapore, Singapore Area

Updated Nov 22, 2012 – Salaries posted anonymously by employees and employers
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