Dr Tan See Leng, Singapore's Minister for Manpower

AFTER working together to support jobs and improve livelihoods during the pandemic, Singapore’s tripartite partners will now tackle the challenges of the post-pandemic world, Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng said on Wednesday (Apr 26) in his May Day Message.

Singapore is turning the chapter on Covid-19, said Dr Tan, noting that 2022 saw growth in resident employment, improvement in unemployment rates and a decline in retrenchments.

A coordinated effort across multiple stakeholders will be required to prepare workers and businesses for jobs and the economy of the future, and individual responsibility is key, Minister Tan highlighted.

In his 2023 May Day message, Singapore’s Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng recognised the collective efforts taken in the previous year that led to growth in resident employment, improvement in unemployment rates, and decline in retrenchments, as the country moved into post-COVID recovery.

Looking at the present and what’s to come, he shared: “As we turn the chapter on COVID-19, let us steel ourselves to take on challenges in the post-pandemic world with renewed confidence.”

Minister Tan went on to elaborate on Singapore’s journey towards building a strong economy, one that “provides good jobs for our people, and an inclusive labour market where workers with different skill sets across various occupations and trades feel valued for their contributions and are able to carry out their work with dignity and purpose.”

He affirmed, “Singapore’s approach is not to protect every job, but to protect workers by helping them to reskill and upskill, to progress to better jobs. We are also committed to journeying with businesses in their growth, to support them to transform and remain relevant. A coordinated effort across multiple stakeholders will be required to prepare our workers and businesses for jobs and the economy of the future, and individual responsibility is key.”

On that note, the Minister noted five areas of focus in driving these efforts:

#1 Equipping workers for the post-pandemic world

Building on the National Trades Union Congress’ (NTUC) efforts to ensure that the workforce remains future-ready and resilient, the Government introduced a S$70mn NTUC Company Training Committees (CTC) grant in Budget 2022 to co-fund workforce and enterprise transformation. As shared by the minister, the CTCs are working with employers to drive reskilling and upskilling of workers to meet new business demands.

He added, “Workers will need to embrace these opportunities to upgrade themselves and new challenges ahead, for better pay, jobs, and career progression.”

#2 A progressive workplace for all

On this, the minister reaffirmed the importance of a level-playing field in ensuring that every worker, regardless of background, can contribute and achieve their full potential.

In that vein, the Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness released in February its interim report comprising recommendations on how new legislation can prohibit discrimination and strengthen protection for workers, while preserving workplace harmony and a non-litigious workplace culture.

The proposed legislation, Minister Tan said, will enhance protections against discrimination for all workers including seniors, women, and persons with disability.

“The Labour Movement has played a critical role in codeveloping the recommendations and will continue to play an important role after the legislation is introduced, such as in supporting and assisting workers with dispute resolution.”

#3 Uplifting vulnerable workers

Here, Minister Tan talked about the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) and Workfare Scheme Singapore has put in place to uplift lower-wage workers. The PWM, he noted, presents annual wage increases alongside skills upgrading and improvements to productivity for this group of workers.

“We have made much progress with the recent implementation of the PWM in the retail and food services sectors, and occupations such as administrators and drivers, as well as the new Progressive Wage Mark accreditation scheme.”

#4 Strengthening protections for platform workers

Coming to the point on platform workers, Minister Tan highlighted a commitment to strengthening the basic protections of this group in a way that would be sustainable for the platform ecosystem.

In line with that, in 2022, the Government accepted all 12 recommendations by the Advisory Committee on Platform Workers, which tackle the following three areas of concern relating to this group of workers:

  • Ensuring adequate financial protection in case of work injury,
  • Improving housing and retirement adequacy, and
  • Enhancing representation.
  • Implementation of these recommendations will begin in the second half of 2024.

#5 Professionalising skilled trades

Minister Tan also affirmed that the ministry is partnering with NTUC to look into ways to redesign skilled trades, particularly those that remain indispensable in the economy, with the objective to offer better salaries and career and skill progression to attract, retain, and reward workers in these jobs.

“Over time, if we are able to upgrade the prospects and perceptions of such jobs with more attractive career pathways, we will be able to build a more inclusive labour market that rewards mastery of skills and increase the number of locals in these roles sustainably,” he said.



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