During his May Day rally speech, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stated that workers are living in a “time of change.”
However, he believes that both the Government and labor movement will help workers to meet the challenges of these changes effectively.
Did you miss the speech? If so, here are the top seven things you should know about. You can also watch the speech at the end of this article.
There Will Be Ups and Downs
Just as the global economy has slowed down, so has the Singaporean economy.
One example of the state of the country’s economy, was that there have been several shifts a day in some cases, of no ships entering the country’s most used port, the Tanjong Pagar Terminal.
However, there are areas of the country’s economy that look hopeful.
Information, finance, communication, technology, healthcare, and insurance are all seeing boosts.
Additionally, the unemployment rate is still set to decrease overall, rather than increase.
In fact, Singapore remains a country where there are more jobs than workers, and the real challenge remains in getting Singaporean workers properly qualified to take on those jobs.
PMETs are On the Rise
PMETs are the largest section of the workforce in Singapore (at 54 percent), and the number is only expected to rise further (to two thirds by 2030).
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong suggested in his speech that NTUC can further the rise of this number by offering useful career counselling and courses that will boost networking and skills for PMETs looking to enter the new Singaporean workforce.
Dealing with Disruptors
With the rise of new sharing economy apps, Uber and Airbnb in particular, the business models of these industries in Singapore will never be the same. In many ways these companies have made it harder for local business.
However, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong does recognize the benefit these companies have for the consumers.
The Government has promised to cement measures that will allow all competitors, new and old, to compete fairly.
The Prime Minister also challenged those in the industry to be the new “disruptors.” He stated, “Be the disruptor. And, if we can do this industry transformation, it’s not just the businesses and consumers who benefit, but the workers in those businesses.”
Some Big Changes are Coming
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pointed out three specific areas of change that Singaporean workers should anticipate:
- Now that more PMETs exist, the workforce demographics will be changing.
- Singaporean jobs are changing as emerging industries are putting forth new jobs. However, old jobs are also being lost because of outsourcing.
- With industries changing every day, new business models are challenging old ways of production.
Workers Must Push Forward
If you want to remain successful in the Singaporean job market, you will need to upgrade your skillset and resume.
Most companies investing in Singapore currently are from industries that have never been present in the country before, such as the solar energy company REC, and they require specific kinds of workers.
To help workers adjust for this huge change, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has created multiple programs to help workers learn new and useful skills. These programs are meant to assist PMETs in modernizing their skillset through education/training/etc. at various institutions in Singapore.
For example, the Government is putting $150 million toward the NTUC Education and Training Fund, as long as NTUC itself raises $50 million first.
If NTUC raises this money, they will use it to assist higher education for Singaporean workers, and will work toward training 30,000+ new workers every year. To reach this goal, the organization will be partnering with Nanyang Technological University in August.
Do Not Invest in Unemployment Insurance
In a time when unemployment seems more likely for certain Singaporean workers, many are considering an investment in unemployment insurance.
However, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong thinks this is a bad idea. Instead of using a scheme to get paid to do nothing, he says Singaporeans should take advantage of the new government programs that will train them for free.
The Government also has plans to restructure the workplace so that more workers can be moved into roles they can perform properly, hopefully cutting down on unemployment rates.
One such program is the Career Support Programme for PMETs who have lost their jobs and been retrenched. This program subsidizes the cost of hiring such individuals for a full year. Due to this, over 200 older, less immediately-qualified PMETs have been able to secure employment over the last five months.
Singapore is Unique in its Business Model
Speaking on the uniqueness of Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, “Only in Singapore, do you have a Government that is on the side of the workers, but also one that helps businesses to transform and become more competitive.”
Continuing his sentiments, he said, “Only in Singapore do we have a dynamic and constructive labor movement, that not only says it believes in tripartism, but practices it.
In many countries, union leaders, Government and business leaders cannot be in the same room.”
Overall, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s speech was optimistic about the future of Singapore and its workforce.