Basics of working in Singapore



Singapore’s recent economic growth spurt has opened up numerous job opportunities for both locals and foreigners. The government is also aiming at increasing the population from the current 5.4 million to 7 million people and is looking for foreign talent to contribute to this population growth. This has resulted in relatively flexible immigration policy which further encourages the hiring of foreign talent. Currently, the biomedical sciences industry is one of the fastest growing industries. Other thriving industries include the electronics, chemical, engineering, and IT industries.

While tertiary education will help any job seeker in finding employment, this is also an important consideration in the Ministry of Manpower’s review of one’s educational history when determining whether or not to approve an Employment Pass application. In general, fluency in English is also a basic requirement as English is Singapore’s language of administration.

Job Search

There are numerous avenues for finding employment in Singapore. The ‘Classified’ section of the daily newspaper, The Straits Times, and job search Internet sites are popular means for this. There are also employment agencies and headhunting firms one may approach. Lastly, there are associations designed to assist expats to find work, such as the Career Resource Centre for Expatriates (CRCE) by the American Association of Singapore.

A foreigner entering Singapore is typically granted a 14- or 30-day social visit pass. If you anticipate having to stay longer to seek employment, you may apply for an Employment Pass Eligibility Certificate (EPEC) with the Ministry of Manpower. This pass allows you to stay in the country for up to one year for the purpose of seeking employment.

"Singapore is fantastic at bureaucracy. Make sure to fill everything out clearly and completely and you’ll breeze through the process." Kate, Expat in Singapore and Bangkok

Where possible, however, it is always preferable to find employment before moving to Singapore, as there are many settling-in processes that require an Employment Pass in hand (e.g. setting up bank accounts, entering into a tenancy agreement, signing up for a mobile phone plan, etc.)

For foreigners who find employment in Singapore, your company will serve as the sponsoring party for your Employment Pass. There are four categories of Employment Passes available to the foreign hire, based on income earned. The categories are P1, P2, Q, and ‘S’ passes. The category granted by the Ministry of Manpower determines the kind of privileges one has for bringing in accompanying family members.

Online job search sites:

Holidays and Days-off

Although it is not a company requirement for most employees to work on Saturdays, Singaporeans are known to be a hardworking people, and it is not uncommon to work overtime. Most companies provide at least 14 days of leave in a year, while foreign hires on an expatriate package may expect to receive up to one month of home leave in a year.

New Year’s Day

 January 1

Chinese New Year

2 days in January or February

Good Friday

1 day in March or April

Labour Day

May 1

Vesak Day

1 day in May

National Day

August 9

Hari Raya Puasa

1 day in September or October


1 day in October or November

Hari Raya Haji

1 day in November or December


December 25

Please note that some dates differ from year to year because the dates are calculated according to the lunar, Islamic, and Indian calendar.