Amid eased border restrictions, employment passes (EPs) for finance professionals are getting easier to obtain in Singapore, three recruiters tell eFinancialCareers. This development comes amid increasing interest for Singapore roles among foreign talent, and a trend of financial institutions resuming their overseas searches.
Recruitment firm Quess Singapore, for example, has seen a 35% increase in foreign candidate applications in the past six months, says its Singapore country manager Vikas Srivastava. This spans both tech jobs, as well as roles such as relationship management.
For ultra-competitive tech hiring, the number of roles filled by overseas applicants has jumped from just 6% when border-control measures were in place, to 70% now that restrictions have eased, according to Quess figures. Srivastava attributes this to the “big focus on niche skills and a shrinking talent pool in Singapore,” which has created a “potent” demand/supply imbalance.
Interest from overseas candidates is being reciprocated by firms, who are expanding their search beyond Singapore’s shores, particularly for hard-to-fill mandates. These positions are typically “more niche” mid to senior-level tech or revenue-generating roles, says Selby Jennings Singapore head of front office Andrew Zee.
Offers are usually “approved early on” to factor in the time needed to obtain an EP, he adds. Last year, EP holders struggled to renew their work visas amid a pandemic-induced economic downturn as the government moved to tighten immigration regulations. An expat interviewed by eFC last year said the job market for EP holders was “pretty awful”, and that it was “difficult even to get an interview”.
But it is easier to obtain EPs now compared to a year ago, Srivastava says – with the caveat that qualifying salaries have increased and a new points-based assessment system is being introduced next year. Tech talent in particular is looked upon favourably, given the overwhelming shortage.
Even firms who are not seeing a jump in overseas candidates think this will change in the future. One such firm is Black Swan Group, which recorded fewer overseas applicants in the past year, compared to the year before. “Singapore had a reputation as being a fairly safe place to be based during the main thrust of the pandemic, but the last 24 months brought into sharp focus the constraints of being based around the world, away from family,” says the firm’s APAC managing director, Richard Aldridge. “As things open up, there is still the tendency for people to remain close to home, in case there are further travel constraints in the coming years,” he adds.
But while there is still a preference for companies to develop their “Singapore core” of employees, Aldridge says a growing number of firms are “proactively stating they would consider EPs and relocating candidates”. Adds Zee: “EP protocols have not changed much, with the local talent still being the priority, but with the ease of travel restrictions, this looks to get easier in time to come.”
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