Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS): What Singapore Employers Need To Know About Hiring Foreigners On Employment Pass

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will assess Employment Pass (EP) applications using the new Complementarity Assessment Framework, or COMPASS, starting from 1 September 2023. Similarly, the framework will be applied to applicants renewing their EP from 1 September 2024.

This is in addition to the candidate meeting the minimum qualifying salary for the sector. From 1 September 2022, the qualifying salary for new applications for all sectors (except financial) will be revised to $5,000 (up to $10,500 for a candidate in their mid-40s). For the financial services sector, the qualifying salary will be increased to $5,500 (up to $11,500 for a candidate in their mid-40s).

The new points-based COMPASS was introduced as a more transparent system, giving businesses more clarity and predictability for their manpower planning. The COMPASS also ensures Singapore remains open to complementary talent that is in short supply here. This will enable Singapore to grow its frontier industries and bring its economy to the next stage of growth.

Here’s what Singapore employers need to know when hiring foreigners on EP under the new COMPASS framework.  

Read Also: Guide To Work Passes In Singapore: Work Permits, S Pass and Employment Pass (EP)

Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) Is A Points-Based System To Assess EP Applicants And Their Employers

Complementarity Assessment Framework or COMPASS is a points-based system to assess employment pass (EP) applicants and their employers. The evaluation is based on a holistic set of individual and firm-related attributes. 

Applicants are assessed on 4 foundational criteria and will be awarded scores of 0, 10, or 20 points each if they meet or exceed expectations. A minimum of 40 points is required to pass the COMPASS.

For applicants who do not meet the expectations for some of the foundational criteria, they can make it up with additional points under two bonus criteria. These bonus criteria recognise the applicants that bring in skills that are in short supply and firms that support strategic economic priorities.

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Individual Based Foundational Criteria Assesses Applicant’s Salary And Education

Applicants are first assessed on two foundational criteria that are based on their individual attributes. One is their salary compared to the local professionals, managers, executives, and technicians (PMETs) in the sector, by age.

Applicants are awarded the maximum 20 points, if their salaries are above the 90th percentile in the sector. 10 points if their salary is between the 65th to 90th percentile. And 0 points if their salary is lower than that.  

The other individual-based criterion is their educational qualification. Applicants are awarded the maximum 20 points, if they graduated from a top-tier institution. These include the top 100 universities based on international rankings, Singapore’s autonomous universities and other vocational institutions that are highly-recognised in a particular field. Otherwise, they will be awarded 10 points for a degree-equivalent qualification. Although qualifications are not a mandatory requirement under COMPASS, applicants without a degree will be awarded 0 points.

Read Also: 5 Ways Businesses Need To Think About Hiring In 2022 (After Budget 2022 Statement)

Firm Based Foundational Criteria Assesses Diversity Within The Firm And Support For Local Employment 

Next, the applicants are assessed based on two firm-based foundational criteria.

The first of two is based on the diversity of nationality within the firm’s PMET workforce, or anyone earning at least $3,000 per month. 20 points is awarded, if the applicant’s nationality forms less than 5% of the firm’s PMET workforce. 10 points if the applicant’s nationality represents 5% to 25% of the firm’s workforce, and 0 points, if it is above 25%.

The second firm-based foundational criterion looks at the firm’s support for local employment. It compares the firm’s number of local PMETs hired to the rest of the subsector. Points will be awarded if the firm’s share of local PMETs is at least above the 20th percentile. Also, applicants will be given a default 10 points, if the hiring firm has fewer than 25 PMETs employed.

Bonus Criteria Assessed On Skills Bonus and Strategic Economic Priorities

Applicants who do not meet the minimum points under the foundational criteria can make up for it under the bonus criteria.

The first bonus criterion is the skills bonus, where the applicant will be awarded 20 points if they are filling a post that is on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). However, if the applicant’s nationality forms more than one-third of the firm’s PMET workforce, then only 10 points will be awarded.   

The second bonus criterion that applicants can tap into is the strategic economic priorities bonus. Firms can get 10 additional points for their applicants if they meet specific assessment criteria on innovation or internationalisation activities.

Examples Of How COMPASS Could Be Applied

Let us illustrate using two examples how candidates will be assessed based on COMPASS.

Example 1: Candidate Meets All 4 Foundational Criteria 

Assuming a small marketing firm intends to hire a foreign candidate under an employment pass. The firm has a small PMET employment of 9. The candidate holds a bachelor’s degree from a foreign university (outside of the top-tier list). And, the candidate’s salary is at the 85th percentile compared to local PMET salaries in the sector.   

Source: MOM

Based on the application, the candidate will pass the COMPASS on the 4 foundational criteria. 

Example 2: Candidate Needs Bonus Criteria To Pass COMPASS

Next, we look at an example of a data analytics firm in the information and communications technology (IT) sector hiring a foreigner. Assuming, the firm’s local PMET share is around the 15th percentile of its sector and the candidate’s nationality forms 45% of its PMET employees. The candidate is an artificial intelligence engineer (assuming it’s within the list of shortage occupations) and holds a master’s degree from a foreign university (outside of the top-tier list). Furthermore, the candidate’s salary is at the 95th percentile compared to local PMET salaries in the sector.

Source: MOM

In this example, though the candidate did not receive any points from the firm-based criteria, they could pass COMPASS due to the points from the bonus criterion.

Exemption From COMPASS

A candidate may be exempt from COMPASS if they earn at least a $20,000 fixed salary.

Other conditions where exemption from COMPASS may be granted include applying as an overseas intra-corporate transferee or filling the role on a short-term basis of around 1 month or less. However, candidates must still meet the minimum qualifying salary for their employment pass (EP) application.

Read Also: Guide To Hiring A Foreign Employee On An S Pass In Singapore

COMPASS Framework Benefits Both Companies And Local Workers   

COMPASS was meant to serve as a transparent system to give businesses greater clarity and predictability for their manpower planning. It incentivises businesses to select high-quality foreign professionals while at the same time nudging businesses to improve their workforce diversity and build a strong Singaporean core.

For local workers, the COMPASS provides a form of reassurance that they have a level playing field when competing with foreigners. Under the points-based COMPASS, companies would find it hard to employ more of a single nationality or employ foreigners on lower salaries compared to local PMETs.

Additionally, COMPASS also provides local workers with insights into the employment opportunities based on the “Shortage Occupation List”. This could be useful for local jobseekers as they could acquire the relevant skills to work in this field where firms are willing to pay more due to the shortage of local PMETs.

Read Also: Guide To Understanding The Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI) For Companies Hiring Local Workers

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