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Pro-Singaporean hiring rules kick in after backlash

SINGAPORE -- New hiring rules favoring Singaporeans kicked in Friday as part of measures aimed at addressing citizens' complaints about foreigners stealing jobs from them.

Singapore-based companies needing professional workers now have to advertise on an online “Jobs Bank” for at least 14 days before they can seek an employment pass for a foreigner.

The government-run website will match employment opportunities with profiles of locals seeking employment or a change of jobs.

Singapore citizens and permanent residents looking for employment must create an account on the jobs bank that will allow them to apply for vacancies.

The portal offers vacancies in sectors such as accounting, banking, engineering, the sciences and sales. More than 16,000 positions are currently available, about half of them for professionals, managers and executives.

In a blog post on Thursday, the manpower ministry said it will scrutinize firms that have “a disproportionately low concentration of Singaporeans” at the professional level, as well as those that are accused of “nationality-based or other discriminatory” hiring practices.

Firms with 25 or fewer staff, or those recruiting for jobs paying SG$12,000 (US$10,000) and above a month, will be exempted from the advertising rule.

The manpower ministry said it will provide support to companies with low numbers of Singaporean employees on “how to go about their training needs and grow a Singaporean core in their workforce.”

The American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore welcomed the new rules.

“AmCham members anticipate that the new policy will help them reach a larger pool of qualified local applicants,” James Andrade, the group's chairman, said in a statement.

Authorities have been phasing in measures to tighten worker inflows after facing criticism from Singaporeans, who accuse foreigners of competing with them for jobs, housing, schools, medical care and space in public transport.

Discontent spilled into general elections in 2011 when the ruling People's Action Party garnered its lowest-ever vote count after more than 50 years in power.

The city-state's low birth rate had initially prompted the government to grant an average of 18,500 new citizenships every year between 2008 and 2012, helping the population surge by 30 percent since 2004 to 5.4 million last year.

About 38 percent of Singapore's total workforce of 3.44 million people are non-residents. There were 175,100 foreigners holding employment passes as of December 2013.

Another 770,000 hold work permits for lower-end jobs in construction, marine industries and other sectors shunned by Singaporeans. Some 215,000 foreign women work as domestic helpers.

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