It is employment pass renewal season in Singapore and the new regime is dominating the conversation at after-work cocktails on Fridays.

From September, overseas employees on a work visa will need to fulfill the city-state’s new points-based system and earn a minimum salary threshold to stay in their jobs. While this mirrors what happens in other countries, it risks turning foreign companies away and could tarnish the nation’s image as a global business hub.

The program was announced in 2022 in a bid to promote fair hiring practices. Points are awarded for how a candidate’s salary compares to local peers, along with their education and skills and whether their nationality improves the diversity of the firm. It puts the onus on employers to prove why they need to hire foreigners.