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  2. What Is the Foreign Worker Levy (FWL)?

What Is the Foreign Worker Levy (FWL)?

Author Gabi Bellairs-LombardGabi Bellairs-Lombard

7 min read
Better Business

A foreign worker levy is a mandatory fee imposed by the Singaporean government on employers for hiring foreign workers. It helps regulate the influx of foreign labour and encourages the employment of local citizens. To understand the intricacies of the levy and its implications, keep reading.

What Is the Foreign Worker Levy (FWL)?

Singapore Foreign Worker Levy (FWL) is a payment by employers for foreign workers, regulating the workforce and labour market dynamics.

Singapore is known for its diverse and dynamic workforce, with many foreigners coming to the country to work and contribute to its economic growth. However, there are regulations to ensure smooth workforce management, including the Foreign Worker Levy (FWL) permit. Whether you are an employer or a foreign worker, it is important to understand and comply with the FWL regulations.

Importance of Understanding and Complying With FWL Regulations

Understanding and complying with the FWL (Foreign Worker Levy) regulations is paramount for employers and foreign workers. These regulations significantly shape the employment landscape, ensure fair treatment, and maintain a harmonious working environment. Outsourcing company incorporation services for foreigners can help you better understand the process and local regulations.

Non-compliance with the FWL regulations can have severe consequences for both employers and foreign workers. Employers must know their responsibilities and obligations to avoid legal complications. Failure to comply can result in heavy penalties and fines, which can harm the financial stability and reputation of businesses.

Moreover, understanding and adhering to the FWL regulations can help employers streamline their workforce management process. By familiarising themselves with the regulations, employers can ensure that they hire foreign workers within the legal framework, obtain the necessary permits, and fulfil their obligations towards these employees. This, in turn, contributes to their businesses' smooth and efficient operation.

On the other hand, foreign workers should also be well-informed about the FWL regulations. Awareness of their rights and entitlements is crucial to protect themselves from potential exploitation or mistreatment. By understanding these regulations, foreign workers can ensure they are treated fairly and per the law.

Furthermore, compliance with the FWL regulations can help foreign workers avoid any disputes or issues with their employers. By knowing their rights and the legal requirements, foreign workers can proactively address any concerns or grievances, fostering a healthy working relationship with their employers.

In addition to the legal aspects, understanding and complying with the FWL regulations also contribute to the overall social fabric of the country. These regulations are designed to maintain a level playing field for local and foreign workers, ensuring fair competition and preventing unfair advantage for employers who may exploit foreign labour.

Moreover, compliance with the FWL regulations promotes a sense of inclusivity and equality within the workforce. By upholding these regulations, employers demonstrate their commitment to treating all employees with respect and dignity, regardless of their nationality.

It is worth noting that the FWL regulations are subject to periodic updates and amendments. Staying informed about any regulation changes is crucial for employers and foreign workers to ensure continued compliance. This can be done through regular communication with relevant authorities, attending seminars or workshops, or seeking professional advice from local experts, such as your business’s corporate secretary.

Definition and Purpose of the FWL in Managing the Workforce

The FWL is a kind of Singapore employment pass required by the Singapore government for employers who hire foreign workers. Its purpose is to regulate the number of foreign workers in Singapore and to encourage businesses to employ local talent. By levying a fee on employers for each foreign worker they employ, the government aims to balance the employment landscape and protect the interest of local workers. The revenue generated from the FWL is also used to fund programs and initiatives for the benefit of the local workforce.

Eligibility and Exemptions

Not all employers in Singapore are required to pay the FWL. The eligibility criteria for a foreign worker levy are based on varying factors. Employers should familiarise themselves with the eligibility and exemption requirements to ensure compliance with the FWL regulations.

Categories of workers subject to the FWL

  • Work Permit Holders: Foreign workers holding Work Permits in Singapore are subject to the Foreign Worker Levy (FWL). This category typically includes workers in industries such as construction, manufacturing, marine, and services.
  • S Pass Holders: S Pass holders, who are mid-level skilled foreign workers employed in various sectors like information technology, healthcare, and engineering, are also subject to the FWL.
  • Employment Pass and EntrePass Holders: Employment Pass and EntrePass holders, highly skilled professionals and entrepreneurs and holders of a Singapore long-term visit pass, respectively, are not subject to the FWL. These categories typically include managers, executives, and business owners contributing to Singapore's economic development.

Exemptions and eligibility criteria for FWL

  • Exemptions for Certain Sectors: Some sectors may be granted exemptions or reduced FWL rates to alleviate the impact on labour costs. For example, the marine and process sectors may receive specific exemptions or lower levy rates to support industry competitiveness.
  • Levy Waivers for Certain Workers: In some instances, specific categories of workers may be eligible for levy waivers. This includes domestic workers, workers with disabilities, and elderly caregivers. Levy waivers aim to provide support and recognise the unique circumstances of these individuals.
  • Skill-Based Levy Framework: The FWL is tiered based on skill levels to encourage hiring higher-skilled foreign workers. The levy rates vary depending on the worker's skill level, with higher rates applied to lower-skilled workers. This framework encourages employers to invest in training and development to build a skilled workforce.
  • Quota and Dependency Ratio Ceiling: Employers must adhere to quota and dependency ratio ceilings. These restrictions limit the proportion of foreign workers an employer can hire relative to their local workforce. The quotas and ratios vary across sectors and are periodically reviewed to ensure a balanced labour market.
  • Levy Reductions for Local Workers: Employers can receive levy reductions or rebates if they hire local workers or invest in productivity-enhancing measures. These incentives aim to promote local employment and encourage employers to prioritise hiring Singaporean citizens or permanent residents.

Calculating and Paying the Foreign Worker Levy

The calculation of the FWL is based on the type of employment pass held by the foreign worker and the number of foreign workers employed by the employer. The levy rates differ for different industries and skill levels, with higher rates applicable to specific sectors to prioritise local employment. The levy is typically paid every month and must be paid by the employer. Thankfully, there are foreign worker levy calculators to help.

FWL rate tiers and calculation methods

The Foreign Worker Levy (FWL) in Singapore is calculated based on different rate tiers and calculation methods. The foreign worker's skill level and dependency ratio determine the rate tiers. Generally, higher-skilled workers have lower levy rates compared to lower-skilled workers. This tiered structure aims to encourage hiring more skilled foreign workers and promote productivity in the workforce. The calculation methods consider factors such as the worker's sector, occupation, and whether the employer has met the quota and dependency ratio requirements. Employers can refer to the official guidelines and levy calculators provided by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to determine the FWL amount for each worker accurately.

Monthly FWL payment procedures and deadlines

Employers in Singapore are required to pay the Foreign Worker Levy (FWL) monthly. The payment procedures involve submitting the FWL payment through the MOM's online portal or other approved methods. The levy amount is usually deducted from the employer's designated bank account. Employers need to ensure they have sufficient funds in their accounts to cover the FWL payment. The payment deadline is typically on the 14th of the following month. Late payments may incur penalties, including fines and possible work permit suspension. Employers should diligently adhere to the payment procedures and deadlines to comply with FWL regulations and avoid unnecessary complications.

Implications for Employers

The FWL has several implications for employers and needs to be weighed against the business’s needs and long-term goals.

Impact of FWL on business costs and budgeting

The FWL adds to the overall operational costs of businesses, especially those that heavily rely on foreign workers. Employers must factor in the FWL payment when planning their budgets and expenses. The FWL also impacts employers' hiring decisions, as the levy rates differ for different types of employment passes and industries. Employers need to consider the financial implications of employing foreign workers compared to local talent.

Compliance and consequences of non-payment or underpayment

Non-compliance with the FWL regulations can lead to reputational damage and legal consequences, which can have serious implications for the business.

FWL Updates and Policy Changes

The FWL regulations are subject to updates and policy changes to align with the needs of the local workforce and the overall economic climate. Employers and foreign workers must stay updated with the latest developments to ensure compliance and avoid nasty surprises, such as timely work permit renewal in Singapore. The government periodically reviews the FWL and makes necessary adjustments to balance the employment needs of businesses and the protection of local workers.

Managing FWL for contractors and service providers

Contractors and service providers in Singapore need to manage the Foreign Worker Levy (FWL) obligations associated with their workforce. Contractors need to understand their responsibilities regarding FWL when engaging in contractual arrangements. They should ensure the levy is correctly calculated and paid for their foreign workers.

Additionally, contractors should closely monitor any changes in FWL rates and policies to stay updated and compliant with the latest regulations. By effectively managing FWL for their workforce, contractors can maintain a smooth and transparent relationship with their clients and fulfil their obligations as responsible employers.

FWL considerations for contractors and service providers

Contractors and service providers should consider various factors concerning the Foreign Worker Levy (FWL). Firstly, they should carefully assess their workers' FWL rates and eligibility criteria, considering their skill levels and the relevant industry regulations. Contractors should also be aware of any specific exemptions or levy reductions that may apply to their line of work.

Additionally, they should consider the impact of FWL on project costs and budget accordingly. It is crucial for contractors and service providers to factor in FWL considerations when preparing bids and negotiating contracts, ensuring that they can meet their FWL obligations while maintaining competitiveness in the market.

Compliance and best practices for managing FWL obligations

To ensure compliance, it is advisable to stay informed about the latest FWL updates and policy changes issued by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). Contractors should maintain accurate records of their foreign workers, including their work permits, FWL payments, and any relevant documentation. Regular audits and reviews of FWL processes can help identify any discrepancies or non-compliance issues. Engaging the services of a professional consultant, such as an accounting services company familiar with hiring foreigners or an HR specialist who is well-versed in FWL regulations, can also provide valuable guidance and assistance. By following best practices and maintaining compliance with FWL obligations, contractors and service providers can build a reputation for reliability and professionalism in their industry.


The Foreign Worker Levy (FWL) permit is an important aspect of workforce management in Singapore. Employers and foreign workers need to understand and comply with the FWL regulations to avoid penalties, ensure smooth operations, and protect the rights of all parties involved. If you want to make sure you get this right from day one, get in touch with one of our experts!


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