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Committee of Supply Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Manpower, 09 March 2015, 3:30 PM, Parliament

Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Manpower, Parliament

SECURING PEACE OF MIND FOR SINGAPOREANS

  1. Minister Tan Chuan-Jin spoke about our continued efforts to help Singaporeans achieve better jobs and higher incomes, and to provide Singaporeans with greater assurance for their retirement.
  2. I would like to elaborate on my ministry’s efforts to encourage employment of older workers. I will also give an update on our efforts to facilitate fair and progressive workplace and employment practices.

    Encouraging Employment of Older Workers

    Addressing the Needs of an Ageing Workforce
  3. I had the opportunity to take part in a focus group discussion about “Lifelong Employability” a few months ago. This was part of a series of feedback sessions for the action plan on Successful Ageing. The participants, who were mostly mature and older Singaporean workers, shared that they wanted to continue working in their silver years. Aside from wanting to remain financially independent, the majority believed that work would help them to remain physically and mentally active and maintain their social networks.
  4. For businesses, the tight labour market makes it even more important to attract and retain older workers. Employers who were involved in the focus group discussion felt that older workers brought experience and were generally more reliable. However, they also faced challenges adapting to new work arrangements.
  5. I thank the focus group participants for sharing their views. Their feedback validates our efforts to help ensure more employment opportunities for older Singaporeans and to encourage them to remain employable.

    Positive Trends in Employment of Older Workers
  6. On that note, let me share some positive outcomes from our efforts.

    General Older Worker Trends
  7. As Associate Professor Randolph Tan pointed out at the Budget Debate, we continue to see high employment rates for older Singaporeans. The employment rate of older Singaporeans aged 55 to 64 rose to a new high of 66% in 20141, up from 65% in 2013. This is one of the highest rates even among developed countries.
  8. Even though the employment rate for this group of Singaporeans is high, we should continue to invest in our efforts to ensure older Singaporeans can continue working.
  9. Ms Jessica Tan asked about the wage trends of mature workers and women. The real* median gross monthly income of women increased by about 2% per annum over the last 5 years. This is similar to the increase of Singaporeans in general. The real* median gross monthly income of mature workers aged 55 and above saw a higher increase of 2.5% per annum2 during the same period.
  10. Ms Jessica Tan also asked if there is still a need for retirement age. The current minimum statutory retirement age of 62 protects workers from below 62 from being dismissed on the grounds of age. It does not impede people from working beyond 62. We had studied approaches taken by other developed countries and concluded that re-employment is a better and more practical approach for us.

    Re-employment Trends
  11. Mr. Seng Han Thong asked for an update on the progress of companies re-employing older workers. We continue to see positive trends. Based on preliminary findings3, nearly all (99%) private sector local employees who turned 62 in the year ending June 2014 were offered re-employment – same as the year before.
  12. 91% of the local employees who accepted re-employment on a new contract in the same job in 2014 did not have their basic wages cut. This is an increase from 83% in 2013. This includes almost 1 in 10 who actually got higher wages upon re-employment. If we count employees who continued on existing contracts, 98% of those re-employed in the same job, be it on a new or existing contract, did not experience a basic wage cut. This is an increase from 96% in 2013.
  13. Our experience has shown that adopting re-employment as an approach to raising the employment rate of older workers beyond the age of 62, works for Singapore. This puts us in good stead to eventually move the re-employment age to 67.
  14. Mr Seng also asked about re-employment in the public sector. In the year ending 2013, more than 9 in 10 public officers who retired at age 62 and wished to continue working were re-employed.

    Re-employment disputes – numbers and outcomes
  15. Mr Heng Chee How asked for the number of re-employment disputes and their outcomes. Since 2012, MOM has received 103 individual cases of re-employment disputes. The majority of these were related to eligibility for re-employment (e.g. disputes over the employee’s performance) or dissatisfaction over the terms of the re-employment contract. Most cases were settled after conciliation.

    Employment Assistance Payment (EAP)
  16. Mr Heng Chee How and Mr Patrick Tay spoke about employers using the Employment Assistance Payment (or EAP) as an easy way out of their re-employment obligations.
  17. Allow me to recall the rationale for our re-employment law which was introduced in 2012 to achieve two objectives. First, to provide opportunities for older workers who are willing and able to continue working, to do so beyond the statutory minimum retirement age of 62. Second, to provide flexibilities for employers and employees to make necessary changes to work arrangements for re-employment.
  18. Employers should consider all available re-employment options, and identify suitable jobs for employees who are medically fit and whose performance are assessed to be satisfactory.
  19. Only if the above efforts fail, then as a last resort, employers can offer affected employees a one-off EAP to help tide the older worker over while he or she looks for employment or undergoes training. We do not believe that the practice of using EAP as an easy way out is prevalent. Workers who feel their employers have not abided by the law can seek assistance from MOM. But we note the concerns and we will monitor the situation.
  20. Mr Patrick Tay also suggested that the EAP be reviewed to reflect the increase in wages. I can assure Mr Tay that the tripartite partners will look at this and other issues in the lead-up to raising the re-employment age.

    Treatment of re-employed/re-employment-eligible employees during retrenchments
  21. Mr Heng also asked if re-employed or re-employment-eligible employees should be treated the same as other employees during retrenchments.
  22. In the unfortunate event that retrenchments are necessary, we expect employers to do so responsibly. They should apply relevant and objective criteria consistently when determining who are affected.
  23. They should also do so in consultation with the union – if the company is unionised – and notify MOM as early as possible. This is so that we can help affected workers find alternative employment and/or to provide them with relevant training to enhance their deployability.

    Encouraging Employers to Re-employ Beyond 65
  24. Looking ahead, Ms Jessica Tan asked about plans to raise the re-employment age to 67, and whether companies have already been re-employing workers beyond 65.
  25. Overall, the employment rate of citizens aged 65 to 69 has gone up (from 38% in 2013 to 40% last year), and is in fact close to those of advanced economies like Japan. This is encouraging as it shows that employers find value in their older employees.
  26. One key issue that the Tripartite Committee on Employability of Older Workers (Tricom), which I chair, deliberated on last year was when to raise the re-employment age from 65 to 67. After extensive discussions and consultations, the Government accepted the Tricom’s recommendation to first take a promotional approach. We also said that in the interim, we would consider incentives to encourage employers to voluntarily re-employ older workers aged 65 and above.

    Enhancement of the Special Employment Credit to Encourage Voluntary Re-employment
  27. Two weeks ago, DPM Tharman announced in his Budget speech that employers will receive an additional Special Employment Credit (SEC) offset of up to 3% of monthly wages this year, if they hire Singaporean workers aged 65 and above who earn up to $4,000 a month. This is on top of the current 8.5% SEC for hiring Singaporean workers above 50. Hence, if they employ an older Singaporean aged 65 and above earning up to $4,000 in 2015, employers will receive a total SEC of up to 11.5% of monthly wages. This amounts to almost one and a half months of wages, for each eligible worker re-employed. We hope that this will encourage more employers to retain their older workers even after they reach 65 years and continue to benefit from their experience and expertise.
  28. We will monitor the outcome and look at extending the re-employment age to 67 in two to three years’ time.

    Measures to Enhance the Employability of Older Workers
  29. In addition to the SEC incentive, the Tricom has also been working hard to enhance the employment of mature workers aged 40 and above along three broad thrusts.

    Supporting employers in improving workplace practices
  30. First, we are supporting employers in improving workplace practices so as to attract and retain mature workers.
  31. This was something Ms. Jessica Tan touched on. We introduced the WorkPro programme in 2013, to provide funding support for companies to implement age-friendly practices and flexible work arrangements. This was an enhancement of the previous WoW! fund, ADVANTAGE! scheme and Flexi-Works! Scheme, which were introduced between 2004 and 20074.
  32. Under WorkPro, employers can tap on the Age Management Grant (AMG) and the Job Redesign Grant (JRG) to put in place progressive age management practices and to embark on job redesign projects respectively.
  33. Mr Heng Chee How asked for an assessment of how effective existing schemes have been. The take-up for the AMG has been very positive; with about 1,400 companies on board since its launch in April 2013. $28 million of the budget has been committed.
  34. One example of a company that has benefited from the AMG is Skillsforce Management Consultancy. It offers outsourced HR functions and consultancy services. The company puts in effort to recruit and retain mature workers as they believe in the value of the experience. Half of their employees are mature workers. To ensure that their needs are taken care of, the company implemented several age management practices. Ms. Violet Sim, aged 65, worked as a HR manager in several multinational corporations before she retired in 2005. After retirement, she took on ad-hoc assignments and had thought that it would be difficult for her to secure a full-time job given her age. Skillsforce recognised her skills and employed her with a competitive remuneration package, including benefits such as healthcare insurance. When Violet first joined Skillsforce, she was assigned a mentor, who helped her adapt to the company’s culture and her role quickly. Today, she is happily employed at Skillsforce as a HR Business Partner, performing HR functions for her client company.
  35. Employers can also tap on the Job Redesign Grant to go further in implementing innovative job and process redesign, specific to their employees’ and business needs. However, the take-up for the Job Redesign Grant has not been as positive. As at December 2014, only 46 companies have come on board, and only about $2 million has been committed.
  36. Mr Heng Chee How and Mr Seng Han Thong observed that employers still face obstacles when redesigning jobs. It is a real challenge, especially for many SMEs, who may feel that they lack the expertise to tap on the JRG. I agree with Mr David Ong that we must do more to help such smaller employers.
  37. Age management is a relatively new field in Singapore. The knowledge pool, even among consultants, is not deep. To address this capability gap, we are developing a training framework for age management. Together with our tripartite partners, we will engage Institutes of Higher Learning, industry experts and training providers to create a curriculum specific to managing older workers in Singapore. This can be in areas such as flexible work arrangements, performance management, designing safe workplaces for mature workers and managing a multi-generational workforce. This framework aims to increase awareness and application of age management practices by HR practitioners, line managers and senior management. We are also working with industry experts to accredit consultants in the age management domain. This will ensure that consultants can effectively address companies’ age management issues.
  38. While the Government can make these opportunities available, ultimately companies must still want to take the first step. We therefore encourage more companies to tap on the JRG to implement job redesign solutions as they prepare for an older workforce, as it is in their interest to do so.

    Raising the skills of older workers
  39. The second thrust is raising the skills of older workers so that they can tap on better employment opportunities.
  40. Mr Heng, Mr Seng and Ms Rita Soh asked about how the Government helps older workers to continuously upgrade their skills and improve their employability.
  41. Everyone has a role to play in continuing education and training. On their part, older workers can tap on existing WDA training grants to enhance their capabilities. Under SkillsFuture, all Singaporeans aged 40 and above will now enjoy enhanced subsidies of at least 90% of training costs for courses funded by MOE and WDA. On top of this, Singaporeans can use the SkillsFuture Credit to offset the remaining fees.
  42. In addition, lower-wage older Singaporean workers can receive up to 95% subsidy for course fees under the Workfare Training Support (WTS) scheme.
  43. Many Singaporeans have benefited from WDA’s training grants. One of them is Mdm Yuen Sow Phoon, who turns 60 this year. After a long absence from the workforce, Mdm Yuen wanted to work as a childcare teacher but lacked the relevant skills and qualifications. She approached one of WDA’s Career Centres in April 2012 and her career coach advised her to take on the WSQ Diploma in Early Childhood Care and Education. At the age of 59, Mdm Yuen completed her diploma and secured a job as a Chinese Language teacher in the childcare sector. Today, Mdm Yuen is still very passionate about teaching and is ever eager to encourage others to upgrade their skills, no matter their age.
  44. We are encouraged to see that many individuals and employers already invest in training. Based on WDA’s 2014 survey on the outcomes of WSQ training, 95% of the surveyed employers found that their employees performed more efficiently after completing WSQ training and 76% reported that training had a positive impact on work productivity. It is particularly heartening to note that in the last three years, there has been an increase in the proportion of trainees aged 40 and above who took up WSQ courses.
  45. A good example of a company which believes in the value of training is Suki Sushi, a local food and beverage (F&B) company which employs about 700 employees. Close to a hundred employees are aged 40 and above. Training is an important business strategy for Suki Sushi as they believe that it contributes to enhanced employee service standards, higher productivity and improved employee morale. The company became a WSQ Approved Training Organisation (ATO) for F&B in 2012 and trains its workers monthly in areas such as maintaining an F&B environment and providing positive customer experiences. Close to 250 employees, including 80% of their mature workers, have benefited from training since it was appointed as an ATO. Suki Sushi’s strong belief in the value of training is also evident in their career progression policies, where employees’ progression is tied to WSQ training.

    Reinforce positive perceptions of older workers and encourage employers to tap on their expertise
  46. Lastly, we continue in our efforts to reinforce positive perceptions of older workers.
  47. We agree with Mr Heng Chee How and Mr David Ong that it is important to tackle ageism in the workplace.
  48. To this end, TAFEP proactively engages employers and helps them develop capabilities for employing and re-employing older workers. This includes advisory services and training workshops for TAFEP pledge-signers on the management of mature employees.
  49. In June 2014, the Tricom launched the “Tap into a Wealth of Experience” campaign to highlight the wealth of experience that older workers bring to their employers. Companies such as Fish & Co., Network Courier and SportSG were featured for having strong mentorship programmes while older workers from On Cheong Jewellery, Goodrich Global and Raffles Hotel were featured for their wealth of experience.
  50. The campaign has resulted in some positive mindset changes amongst employers and older employees. A survey of 900 employers and employees conducted by TAFEP before and after the campaign found that there was an 8 percentage point improvement in how employers viewed older employees and their role in nurturing younger employees. The survey also found that the campaign contributed to better self-perception among older employees, in terms of self-confidence, feeling valued and work motivation.
  51. In the course of my ministry’s work, we have come across many enlightened employers who firmly believe in the value that their older employees bring to their company.
  52. ComfortDelGro is one such example. Recognising the need to adapt to an ageing workforce and a tightening labour market, the company decided on its own accord to extend its retirement age to 65 years in 2012, and in 2013, they raised it further to 67. With more than half of its employees aged 40 and above, ComfortDelGro saw the need to retain mature employees who have years of valuable experience and are able to help mentor younger workers.
  53. Managing a mature workforce comes with its own challenges. For ComfortDelGro, one challenge is ensuring mature employees are equipped with skills that are relevant to the ever-changing demands of the service industry. ComfortDelGro therefore makes special efforts to engage their employees on the purpose of training and to ensure that training results in better service standards. Career progression for all employees is based on skill-sets, competencies and performance.
  54. I applaud the companies mentioned in my speech for their forward-thinking and hope that they serve as an inspiration for others. We will continue to feature such examples at appropriate platforms to show what is possible.
  55. For individuals who encounter age discrimination at the workplace, I encourage them to approach TAFEP for advice and assistance.
  56. Through all the measures that I have outlined, we will continue to build on our progress and ensure that older Singaporeans can achieve their aspirations in their silver years.

    Encouraging Progressive Workplace Practices
  57. Next, let me address Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin’s suggestion to legislate caregiver leave.
  58. We agree that supporting employees with care-giving needs is important. This is why the 2013 Marriage and Parenthood Package provided new leave schemes such as extended childcare leave, paternity leave and shared parental leave. Companies are still adjusting to these newly-legislated leave and we should carefully study their impact before introducing more measures. This is especially so given that many companies are also facing economic restructuring pressures, and other pressures. We have also enhanced our efforts to change mindsets and encourage employers to offer flexible work arrangements, and will continue to do so.
  59. We are glad to note that through our efforts, more and more companies recognise that FWAs is a key tool to attract and retain good employees. The proportion of employers that offered at least one form of formal FWA increased from 38% in 2011 to 47% in 2014. Almost seven in ten employers (69%) provided unplanned time-off for their employees to attend to personal matters in 20146. Let us allow some time for our societal norms and workplace culture to continue to evolve, before we consider further changes to the law.
  60. Mr Zainal raised concerns about the impact that unpredictable and last-minute work arrangements have on employees. The Employment Act already requires employers to work out a roster indicating their rest days in a month, to be conveyed to the employees before the start of the month. While employers are allowed to vary the rest days because of exigencies, such variations have to be fair and the employee must consent. If there are complaints from workers, my ministry will look into them. In addition, through the Tripartite Guidelines on Issuance of Key Employment Terms (KET) in writing, we encourage employers to provide employees with the expected working hours and number of working days before they start employment. This provides employees greater certainty of their work schedule so that they can plan for their personal needs outside of work.

    Facilitating Fair and Progressive Employment Practices

    Update on Jobs Bank and Fair Consideration Framework (FCF)
  61. Mr Patrick Tay and Mr Zaqy Mohamad have asked for an update on the Jobs Bank and Fair Consideration Framework.
  62. Let me start with the Jobs Bank. We launched the Jobs Bank in July last year. It was intended to make job opportunities more transparent to Singaporean job seekers and allow employers to access a larger pool of Singaporean candidates.
  63. Participation in the Jobs Bank has been encouraging. As at 1st Feb 2015, some 16,000 employers and 76,000 individuals have registered with the Jobs Bank. On average, since the launch of the Jobs Bank, up to 1st Feb this year, there are about 68,000 live job vacancies on the Jobs Bank, with more than 70% of the jobs for PMETs, and about 20,000 offering a monthly salary of at least $5,000.
  64. More large employers have also come on board the Jobs Bank, such as OCBC Bank, Panasonic Asia Pacific Pte Ltd, as well as government agencies. It is also encouraging to see that employers are using the Jobs Bank for a wide range of jobs, both PMET and non-PMET.
  65. Since the launch of the Jobs Bank, WDA has taken in feedback from the public and enhanced the portal to make it more user-friendly. For example, we enhanced the search functions for job openings through refining the categorisation of job vacancies and greater job search customization. These enhancements have been received positively.
  66. We have also received feedback from job seekers and employers that the Jobs Bank has made it easier for them to find job opportunities and local job applicants.
  67. Mr. Chandrasekaran Kandasamy, aged 47, is one example of a job seeker who found employment through the Jobs Bank. He was retrenched last year. While he had more than 16 years of experience in the manufacturing sector as a Procurement Engineer, he was unsure of the job opportunities in the market. Mr. Chandrasekaran was the sole breadwinner in his family and he needed to find permanent employment as soon as possible. He approached the WDA Career Centre in July last year. With the advice of his Career Coach, he registered with the Jobs Bank to increase his opportunities for employment. Mr. Chandrasekaran successfully found employment through the Jobs Bank with a manufacturing company, AB SCIEX Pte Ltd, in September last year and has been with the company since.
  68. Employers have also benefited. Accountancy and business advisory firm, Baker Tilly TFW, is one such example. Through the Jobs Bank, Baker Tilly TFW was able to widen their pool of local job candidates for recruitment purposes. To date, they have successfully recruited four Singaporeans as auditors through the Jobs Bank.
  69. This is a positive start for the Jobs Bank. MOM and WDA will continue to enhance the Jobs Bank and work with industry partners to expand its use. As Associate Professor Randolph Tan suggested, we fully intend to look into how data from the Jobs Bank can be used, to supplement other available data to help job seekers. One key area is to develop a more detailed picture of skills in short supply, which we can develop among Singaporeans. We encourage more employers and job seekers to come onboard the Jobs Bank and we welcome feedback to make it a more useful platform so that more can benefit from it.
  70. Mr Patrick Tay, Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Mr Zainal Sapari, and Mr Gerald Giam have asked about tracking the outcomes of Jobs Bank postings and evaluating the effectiveness of the Jobs Bank and the FCF.
  71. The Jobs Bank, together with the FCF, is intended to facilitate a fair hiring process and greater awareness of job vacancies. They set clear expectations for employers to consider Singaporeans fairly for job opportunities and enhance job market transparency. Singaporeans recognize the need to compete for jobs on the basis of merit. What the government is doing is to help them get a fair opportunity. Singaporeans must still show that they are able to take on the jobs that they aspire to. There could be various reasons why an employer may not hire the Singaporean applicant even after considering applications fairly. For example, there could be jobs that require skills that the applicant does not possess. The employer is best placed to decide the best candidate for the job. What we do expect is that the decision is made fairly, based on merit.
  72. The Jobs Bank is not the only avenue for job search. Singaporeans may also find jobs through means other than the Jobs Bank, such as by being hired directly by the firm or through private job portals and other job ads. Even when Singaporeans apply for a job that they see on the Jobs Bank, we cannot directly track this. For example, job seekers may apply directly through firms’ in-house HR portals. Therefore, data on the number of Singaporeans who were placed in a job vacancy which was advertised on the Jobs Bank would not be a representative or accurate indicator of how well Singaporeans are doing in the labour market in general.
  73. But let me assure members that this government is committed to doing everything we can to help every willing Singaporean to learn and to be competitive in the job market. Singaporeans are our only resource, and the government has invested heavily in developing their talents, from childhood until beyond retirement. If you are willing to pick up a work-relevant skill, we will help you - through SkillsFuture, through career guidance, through course subsidies. If you need help finding a suitable job, we will help you - with interview skills, with job matching.
  74. So, the Jobs Bank and FCF cannot and should not be evaluated in isolation. Rather, they are part of a broader labour market ecosystem, which has produced healthy employment outcomes for Singaporeans. This ecosystem includes:

    a) A dynamic economy that is able to compete globally and create new, exciting and meaningful career opportunities for Singaporeans;

    b) An education and training system that ensures that Singaporeans are well-equipped to take up the quality jobs created by our economy; and

    c) An overall labour market that is kept tight, and which is efficient and transparent. This is what the FCF and Jobs Bank are about.

    This ecosystem, of which the FCF and Jobs Bank are part of, has benefited Singaporeans. Our annual average citizen unemployment rate in 2014 remains low at 2.9%7. This situation is completely different from those in many developed countries which face higher unemployment. Singaporean workers have also had positive real wage growth over the last five years. We have seen a sustained increase in median income over the last five years.
  75. Real* median income among full-time employed citizens grew by 2.1% p.a. over the past five years8. The rate of re-entry into employment within six months of redundancy for displaced workers has also improved in recent quarters. On Mr Zaqy Mohamad’s question, the number of complaints on nationality-related discrimination has fallen by 25% from about 310 in 2013 to about 230 in 2014. We have pursued every single one of these cases to establish if they adopted discriminatory practices. When we find proof, MOM will not hesitate to take action. In December last year, we curbed the work pass privileges of Prime Gold International for engaging in discriminatory employment practices as they had retrenched Singaporeans only to fill the positions with foreigners.
  76. We need to continue to watch firms’ hiring practices closely. This brings me to the other component of FCF – additional scrutiny for firms which have room to improve their employment practices, which Mr Patrick Tay and Mr Pritam Singh have asked about. My ministry proactively identifies employers for additional scrutiny using information, such as whether they have a disproportionately low concentration of Singaporeans at the PME level compared to others in their industry. This scrutiny goes in-depth – where we look at their HR practices, such as their hiring policies and talent development approach. Through this scrutiny, we identify employers that have areas for improvement. And so far, this engagement has been useful.
  77. First, it allows us to understand more closely the challenges that both employers and employees face. Second, it allows the Government to provide more targeted assistance and advice to employers to address the gaps in their employment practices. Third, it projects our clear determination to detect and enforce against discriminatory employment practices.
  78. Let me elaborate further.
  79. First, on understanding the challenges. We have found some employers who find it difficult to hire locals as they require niche skills which very few locals have.
  80. One key sector that faces these issues acutely is the ICT sector, as many of its professionals need up-to-date and specialised programming skills, which few Singaporeans have. To address this, MOM has connected these employers with relevant agencies, such as IDA for the ICT sector, to help build their local pipeline. For example, IDA is assisting the ICT companies to provide internship and mentorship opportunities for students, encourage them to send their local employees for on-the-job training to broaden and deepen their competencies in niche technology areas, and help them gain access to a wider network for their recruitment purposes. Looking ahead, the broader SkillsFuture initiatives, such as the Earn and Learn programme, as well as the Sector Manpower Plans, will further strengthen our efforts on this front.
  81. There are other employers with areas for improvement. Here, we take a constructive approach – we work with the employer to develop an action plan to implement these improvements and periodically review their progress. For example, some of the employers were found to lack proper training and development plans for their staff and had unclear recruitment and appraisal criteria and processes. We have asked the employers to address these gaps and to communicate grievance handling avenues to their employees. If we find outright discriminatory practice, we will take action immediately.
  82. We will continue to watch firms’ hiring practices closely, especially those that appear to comply with our advertising requirements but do not consider Singaporeans fairly. We will not hesitate to take such employers to task.
  83. Mr Patrick Tay suggested making it mandatory for employers to publish the salaries of their job postings on the Jobs Bank. Currently, employers who wish to submit an EP application are required to declare the salary range of their job posting to WDA through the Jobs Bank. This allows us to check whether the salary of the subsequent EP application matches that of the job that was advertised, and in the event of a complaint by a job applicant who may have been told a different salary – we can check. It is, however, optional for employers to publish the salary range on the advertisement itself.
  84. We need to weigh the pros and cons of making it compulsory for employers to publish the salaries of their job postings. There are merits in doing so, such as greater transparency for local job applicants and improving the efficiency of the labour market. Publishing the salary range can also help employers attract more suitable candidates. It is, however, not a common practice for employers, especially SMEs, to indicate salary ranges in their job advertisements. Many employers tend to prefer holding back such information for competitive and internal confidentiality reasons.
  85. Over time, when employers become more comfortable and familiar with the Jobs Bank, we will revisit this issue in consultation with tripartite partners.
  86. Mr Patrick Tay has suggested extending the advertising requirement to firms applying for S Pass holders. Other MPs too raised this, for example, Associate Professor Randolph Tan and Mr Gerald Giam.
  87. To be clear, all employers are required to consider Singaporeans fairly for job opportunities, regardless of whether there are any exemptions. We have not made the advertising requirement mandatory for firms submitting applications for S Passes, because there are other tools, such as levies and dependency ratio ceilings that spur firms to search for suitable Singaporeans before applying for an S Pass. Nonetheless, we will monitor the hiring of S Pass holders and assess if further measures are needed.

    Meeting the Changing Needs of our Workforce
  88. Finally, I would like to highlight how in the last two to three years, MOM have together with our tripartite partners undertaken a broad review of our employment legislation and institutions to see how we can better meet the changing needs of our workforce. We updated the Employment Act in 2014 to deepen protection for PMEs earning up to $4,500. Earlier this year, this House passed the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill. Come April this year, there will be more options for unions and employers to work out arrangements to meet the needs of PMEs at the workplace. We will also set up an Employment Claims Tribunal (ECT) to provide all employees, including PMEs, with an expeditious and affordable dispute resolution mechanism for their salary-related disputes.

    Tripartite Mediation Framework
  89. Mr Patrick Tay spoke about the Tripartite Mediation Framework (TMF).
  90. We announced in April last year that my ministry was working with tripartite partners to strengthen the Tripartite Mediation Framework as an alternative mechanism to resolve employment disputes. Mr Tay would be pleased to know that we will also remove the existing salary cap of $4,500 for managers and executive union members. Presently, workers can seek tripartite mediation for issues relating to salary payment, breach of employment contracts and payment of retrenchment benefits. As part of the review, we are also looking at expanding this current set of issues to cover re-employment disputes and other employment statutory benefits such as leave benefits.

    Employment Claims Tribunal
  91. I would also like to thank Mr Patrick Tay for his support for the Employment Claims Tribunal (ECT). The tribunal will address the current challenge faced by PMEs earning above $4,500, who can only pursue breaches of employment contract through civil suits, which can be protracted and expensive. We have studied the tribunals in UK, Australia and Hong Kong to draw lessons.
  92. Under our proposal, the ECT will hear salary-related claims that are statutory and contractual, subject to a certain claims limit. A higher “claims cap” will apply to cases which have undergone formal mediation processes, such as the TMF.
  93. We also agree with Mr Tay that the ECT adjudicators should have a strong appreciation of the employment and industrial relations landscape in Singapore.
  94. On the ease of enforceability of ECT orders, we understand Mr Tay’s concerns about duration and cost of procedures if one seeks to enforce the order through a Writ of Seizure and Sale. We will review the process together with Ministry of Law.
  95. My ministry is also looking at how the Tribunal and the enhanced TMF can complement each other in helping employers and workers resolve their disputes in an expeditious and amicable manner. We will consider Mr Tay’s suggestion to have compulsory mediation and work through the details with our tripartite partners.
  96. The tribunal will look at a specific set of employment disputes relating to the employment contract or benefits provided for in employment legislation. But it cannot resolve every workplace issue. It is in the interest of both employers and employees to try to resolve any dispute early and at the workplace as the first resort. Companies should, as a matter of good practice, have a process to handle grievances and disputes at the workplace. Unions, too, continue to play an important role in assisting and representing workers. Together with the recent amendments to the Employment Act and Industrial Relations Act, these proposed changes reflect MOM’s and the tripartite partners’ efforts to enhance protection, workplace representation, and access to dispute resolution mechanisms for workers.

    Conclusion
  97. Madam Chair, MOM remains committed to our priorities to ensure better jobs and higher incomes, progressive and harmonious workplaces and a secure retirement for all Singaporeans. By working closely with our tripartite partners, the industry and other stakeholders, we believe this can and will be achieved. We will press on in our efforts towards securing peace of mind for Singaporeans.
  98. Thank you.

1 Source: Comprehensive Labour Force Survey, MOM 
2 Data pertains to gross monthly income from work (including employer CPF contributions) of full-time employed Singapore citizens, excluding full-time National Servicemen. The compounded annual growth rate was derived for the period of 2009 to 2014. Source: Comprehensive Labour Force Survey, MOM.
* Deflated by Consumer Price Index – All Items at 2014 prices. 
3 Data pertains to local employees from private establishments (each with at least 25 employees). 
4 The WoW! fund was introduced in Aug 2004 to provide funding support for the implementation of work-life measures. The ADVANTAGE! scheme was introduced in 2005 to enhance the employability of mature workers through training and supporting companies in their efforts to re-design jobs for employees. Flexi-Works! was introduced in 2007 to incentivise employers to hire economically inactive individuals through the implementation of flexible work arrangements.
5 450 employers and 450 older employees were surveyed. The surveyed older employees were 40 years and above. 
6 Data pertain to private sector establishments (each with at least 25 employees) and the public sector. Source: Conditions Of Employment, 2014, MOM.
7 Preliminary estimate. Source: Comprehensive Labour Force Survey, MOM,
8 Data pertains to gross monthly income from work (including employer CPF contributions) of full-time employed Singapore citizens, excluding full-time National Servicemen. The compounded annual growth rate was derived for the period of 2009 to 2014. Source: Comprehensive Labour Force Survey, MOM.


Last Updated: 15 December 2015