As your trusted Singapore consultant at a leading recruitment firm, we wish to share a detailed overview of the Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS). Starting from 1 September 2023, Employment Pass (EP) candidates must pass this two-stage eligibility framework to ensure a high-quality and diverse workforce that strengthens our local core.
In this blog post, we will cover:
- Overview of COMPASS
- COMPASS criteria and assessment tools
- Foundational and Bonus Criteria
- How COMPASS Works and Scoring System
- The Importance of Authentic Qualifications (Mandatory to provide verification proof of study certification & others)
- Emphasizing Diversity and Support for Local Employment
- Supporting Innovation and Economic Growth
- Preparing for the Implementation of COMPASS
- Exemptions from COMPASS
- Final Thoughts for Businesses Adapting to COMPASS
COMPASS is a points-based system that enables employers to select top-quality foreign professionals while enhancing workforce diversity and building a strong local core. It applies to new applications from September 1, 2023, and renewals from September 1, 2024. More details on the COMPASS criteria and assessment tools will be released ahead of September 2023 to help businesses prepare for the rollout.
2. COMPASS Criteria and Assessment Tools
COMPASS evaluates Employment Pass (EP) applications based on a holistic set of individual and firm-related attributes. Applications earn points if they meet or exceed expectations on four foundational criteria and can also earn extra points under the bonus criteria if they meet the relevant qualifying conditions.
3. The foundational criteria are
Relative to local PMET salary norms for sector
Based on candidate’s qualifications
Whether candidate improves nationality diversity in firm
C4. Support for Local Employment
Based on local PMET share relative to industry peers
C5. Skills Bonus
(Shortage Occupational List)
Relative to local PMET salary norms for sector
C6. Strategic Economic
For partnership with Government on ambitious innovation or internationalisation activities
For each criterion, we have provided detailed explanations, scoring systems, and conditions in the original text.
4. How COMPASS Works and Scoring System
To pass COMPASS, applications must score a total of 40 points. They can do this by meeting expectations on all four foundational criteria, or by exceeding expectations on another criterion, or scoring bonus points. The table below summarizes how points are earned:
C1. Salary (Individual)
Fixed monthly salary compared to local professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMET) salaries in sector by age
- ≥ 90th percentile
- 65th to < 90th percentile
- < 65th percentile
C2. Qualification (Individual)
Based on candidate’s qualifications
- Degree-equivalent qualification
- No degree-equivalent qualification
C3. Diversity (Firm-related)
Share of candidate’s nationality among firm’s PMETs.*
- < 5%
- 5 to < 25%
- ≥ 25%
C4. Support for local employment (Firm-related)
Firm’s share of local PMETs within its sector*
- ≥ 50th percentile
- 20th to < 50th percentile
- < 20th percentile
C5. Skills Bonus – Shortage Occupation List (Individual)
Job on the Shortage Occupation List
C6. Strategic Economic Priorities Bonus (Firm-related)
Firm meets specific assessment criteria on investment, innovation, internationalisation, or company and workforce transformation activities
* Small firms with fewer than 25 PMET employees score 10 points on C3 and C4 by default.
# Skills bonus is reduced to +10 if the share of candidate’s nationality among the firm’s PMETs is one-third or higher.
5. The Importance of Authentic Qualifications (Mandatory to provide verification proof of study certification & others)
Employers are responsible for ensuring their candidates’ qualifications are genuine and awarded by accredited institutions. Starting from September 1, 2023, new EP applications must provide verification proof from background screening companies listed on MOM’s website. This ensures that qualifications used to score points under COMPASS are authentic.
6. Emphasizing Diversity and Support for Local Employment
COMPASS awards more points to applications where the candidate’s nationality constitutes a smaller share of the firm’s PMET employees, promoting a diverse and inclusive workforce. The framework also recognizes firms that create opportunities for the local workforce and build complementary teams comprising both local and foreign professionals.
7. Supporting Innovation and Economic Growth
By targeting sectors experiencing skills shortages, COMPASS stimulates innovation and growth in key industries.
The framework also acknowledges and rewards firms that align with Singapore’s strategic economic priorities, such as investment, innovation, internationalization, and company and workforce transformation.
This approach helps ensure that Singapore remains at the forefront of global economic trends and continues to thrive as a hub for cutting-edge industries.
8. Preparing for the Implementation of COMPASS
To ensure a smooth transition to the new framework, employers and foreign professionals should familiarize themselves with the COMPASS criteria and scoring system. This includes understanding the foundational and bonus criteria, as well as the verification requirements for qualifications.
Businesses should also review their current workforce composition to ensure they are meeting or exceeding the expectations set by COMPASS.
This may involve investing in upskilling initiatives for local employees, diversifying their workforce, and focusing on strategic economic priorities to maximize their chances of obtaining Employment Passes for foreign professionals.
9. Exemptions from COMPASS
Certain candidates are exempt from COMPASS if they fulfill specific conditions, such as earning a fixed monthly salary of at least $22,500, applying as an overseas intra-corporate transferee, or filling a role on a short-term basis (1 month or less).
The implementation of COMPASS reflects Singapore’s commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive workforce that fosters innovation and economic growth.
By embracing this new framework, businesses and foreign professionals alike can contribute to a thriving talent ecosystem that benefits all stakeholders in the long run.
As more details about COMPASS are released, keep an eye on updates from the Ministry of Manpower to ensure that you and your business are prepared for this important change in the Singaporean labor market.
- Q: How does the new COMPASS framework affect our hiring process for foreign professionals?
A: The COMPASS framework introduces a two-stage eligibility process, including a qualifying salary (Stage 1) and the Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) (Stage 2). It evaluates candidates based on individual and firm-related attributes using a points-based system. You’ll need to ensure that candidates meet the minimum 40-point threshold and consider the impact of hiring on workforce diversity and local employment.
- Q: What are the foundational and bonus criteria in the COMPASS framework?
A: The foundational criteria include Salary (C1), Qualification (C2), Diversity (C3), and Support for Local Employment (C4). Bonus criteria consist of the Skills Bonus (C5) for jobs on the Shortage Occupation List and Strategic Economic Priorities Bonus (C6) for firms participating in eligible programs aligned with strategic economic priorities.
- Q: How does COMPASS impact small firms with fewer than 25 PMET employees?
A: Small firms with fewer than 25 PMET employees receive a default score of 10 points for Diversity (C3) and Support for Local Employment (C4). The Skills Bonus (C5) is reduced to +10 if the candidate’s nationality share among the firm’s PMETs is equal to or greater than one-third.
- Q: How often is our firm’s COMPASS workforce profile updated?
A: Your firm’s COMPASS workforce profile is updated with an average of the last three months used to reduce fluctuations. Workforce data for the last month of a certain date are collected this month and can only be reflected on the next month of the same date.
- Q: What happens if a candidate does not meet the minimum 40-point threshold in the COMPASS assessment?
A: If a candidate does not meet the minimum 40-point threshold, they will not be eligible for an Employment Pass. Employers may need to reconsider their hiring strategy, search for alternative candidates, or explore options to improve their firm’s scores in the COMPASS criteria.
- Q: Can a candidate still be eligible for an Employment Pass if they have a weak foundational score but earn bonus points?
A: Yes, as long as the candidate’s total score, including bonus points, reaches the minimum threshold of 40 points, they can still be eligible for an Employment Pass.
- Q: How can our company improve our scores in the COMPASS criteria?
A: To improve your scores in the COMPASS criteria, focus on hiring candidates with higher qualifications, offering competitive salaries, and selecting individuals from diverse nationalities. Additionally, increasing your firm’s support for local employment and participating in eligible programs aligned with strategic economic priorities can boost your scores.
- Q: Are there any tools or resources available to help us better understand and navigate the COMPASS framework?
A: The Workforce Insights tool on the myMOM Portal can help you access essential information related to your firm’s sector classification, local PMETs share, and other relevant data.
Additionally, you can find guidelines and updates on the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) website, along with a list of background screening companies for verifying candidate qualifications.
- Q: Can a candidate without a degree certificate get the EP under COMPASS?
A: Yes, a candidate without a degree-equivalent qualification can still be eligible for an Employment Pass under the COMPASS framework.
However, their score for the Qualification criteria (C2) will be 0 points. To compensate for the lack of a degree-equivalent qualification, the candidate would need to earn sufficient points in other foundational and bonus criteria to reach the minimum threshold of 40 points.
Factors such as a competitive salary, diverse nationality, strong support for local employment, and meeting bonus criteria can help improve their overall score, increasing their chances of obtaining an Employment Pass.
- Q: Do I have to pass Stage 1 in order to proceed to Stage 2?
A: Yes, you must pass Stage 1 before moving on to Stage 2 in the two-stage eligibility framework for Employment Pass (EP) applications.
The candidate must first pass Stage 1 (Qualifying Salary) before their application can be evaluated in Stage 2 (COMPASS).
- Q: I’m not quite clear about the percentile part; can you tell me more?
A: The percentile system in the COMPASS framework is used to determine how a candidate’s salary, qualifications, and other attributes compare to those of the local workforce and other firms within the same sector. Percentiles help create a more balanced and fair evaluation of candidates based on their individual and firm-related attributes.
Here’s a brief explanation of how percentiles work in the context of COMPASS:
Salary (C1): In the Salary criteria, percentiles are used to compare a candidate’s salary with age-adjusted local PMET salary benchmarks. The candidate’s salary is assigned a percentile based on its position within the salary distribution of local PMETs in the same sector.
- ≥ 90th percentile: The candidate’s salary is equal to or higher than the salaries of 90% of local PMETs in the same sector. They receive 20 points.
- 65th to < 90th percentile: The candidate’s salary is equal to or higher than the salaries of 65% of local PMETs in the same sector, but lower than the 90th percentile. They receive 10 points.
- < 65th percentile: The candidate’s salary is lower than the salaries of 65% of local PMETs in the same sector. They receive 0 points.
Support for Local Employment (C4): In this criterion, percentiles are used to compare a firm’s share of local PMETs with that of other firms within the same sector.
- ≥ 50th percentile: The firm’s share of local PMETs is equal to or higher than the share of 50% of firms in the same sector. The firm receives 20 points.
- 20th to < 50th percentile: The firm’s share of local PMETs is equal to or higher than the share of 20% of firms in the same sector, but lower than the 50th percentile. The firm receives 10 points.
- < 20th percentile: The firm’s share of local PMETs is lower than the share of 20% of firms in the same sector. The firm receives 0 points.
By using percentiles, the COMPASS framework can better account for variations in salaries, qualifications, and other attributes across different sectors, ensuring a more accurate and fair evaluation of candidates and firms.
12. Final Thoughts for Businesses Adapting to COMPASS
As COMPASS is set to reshape the Singaporean labor market, businesses need to prepare for the changes ahead.
To ensure a seamless transition and continued success, companies should consider the following strategies:
- Stay Informed: Keep up to date on the latest information and guidelines provided by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and other relevant authorities. This will help your business understand the new framework’s requirements and adapt accordingly.
- Assess Your Workforce: Analyze your current workforce composition and identify areas where you may need to invest in upskilling or reskilling initiatives for local employees. Encourage skill development and offer training programs that align with Singapore’s strategic economic priorities.
- Reevaluate Hiring Strategies: Review your recruitment processes to ensure they are aligned with COMPASS requirements. Focus on attracting foreign professionals who can contribute unique skill sets and expertise in high-demand industries, fostering innovation and growth.
- Foster a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace: Promote a culture of diversity and inclusion by implementing policies that support both local and foreign employees. This includes offering equal opportunities for career growth, development, and advancement.
- Align with Economic Priorities: Ensure that your business is in line with Singapore’s strategic economic priorities. This may involve exploring new markets, investing in innovative technologies, or transforming your business model to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving global economy.
- Leverage Government Support: Take advantage of government initiatives designed to support workforce development and transformation, such as grants, funding, and other resources. These programs can help you invest in the skills and capabilities of your workforce to better navigate the changes brought about by COMPASS.
- Monitor and Adapt: As COMPASS is implemented, remain agile and ready to adapt to changes as they arise. Continuously monitor your workforce composition, skills development initiatives, and business strategies to ensure compliance with the new framework.
Reference: MOM Site
This article is written by:
Angel Lim @ Anradus Pte Ltd.
Industrial & Organizational Psychologist
MTMA, MTPA, APAM