Oral Answer by Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister for Manpower, to Parliamentary Questions on Labour Market
NOTICE PAPER NO. 382 OF 2016
QUESTION NO. 646 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: PATRICK TAY TECK GUAN
To ask the Minister for Manpower in light of the Q2 2016 Labour Market report wherein it is indicated that there is a rise in the unemployment rate, a lower rate of re-entry and the number of unemployed persons has now outnumbered job vacancies, what is Ministry doing to (i) overcome these three trends including youth unemployment (ii) help the unemployed especially the vulnerable who have a lower re-entry rate and (iii) minimise the skills/jobs/expectations mismatches that have contributed to the unemployment.
NOTICE PAPER NO. 384 OF 2016
QUESTION NO. 656 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: MELVIN YONG YIK CHYE
To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) why the rate of employment among locals has remained stagnant over the past 18 months despite the tightening on foreign manpower supply; and (b) what is being done to address and overcome this trend.
NOTICE PAPER NO. 395 OF 2016
QUESTION NO. 658 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: DESMOND CHOO
To ask the Minister for Manpower with the number of redundancies and retrenchment cases reaching record levels in the first half of 2016, how will the Ministry (i) help affected workers especially the PMETs who are the most affected (ii) assist lower-wage workers to find alternative employment quickly and (iii) prepare our workers for new jobs in industries facing poor economic prospects.
NOTICE PAPER NO. 392 OF 2016
QUESTION NO. 671 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: LIANG ENG HWA
To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) whether there will be a further rise in job losses in the next 12 months; (b) what are the sectors that are likely to be more impacted; and (c) whether is there a need to tighten up Employment Passes and S-Passes as more local PMETs become available due to increasing job losses and slower job growth
NOTICE PAPER NO. 384 OF 2016
QUESTION NO. 655 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: FOO MEE HAR
To ask the Minister for Manpower whether the Government will review the Employment Pass scheme in light of increasing redundancies affecting PMEs.
NOTICE PAPER NO. 383 OF 2016
QUESTION NO. 652 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: ANG HIN KEE
To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) whether there will be enhanced efforts by the various job placement agencies to assist with job matching services for local workers who are retrenched or jobseekers who have been unsuccessful in their job search efforts; (b) what is the Ministry's assessment of employers' readiness level in supporting these efforts; and (c) what can employers do to make job vacancies and requirements be made known to jobseekers beyond listing on the national Jobs Bank.
NOTICE PAPER NO. 386 OF 2016
QUESTION NO. 660 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: MELVIN YONG YIK CHYE
To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) whether the Ministry has any plans to better help retrenched local workers, particularly PMETs, in their job searching process; and (b) whether the list of Professional Conversion Programmes can be expanded to cover more industries and sectors so that PMETs can have more career options.
NOTICE PAPER NO. 386 OF 2016
QUESTION NO. 661 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: CHRISTOPHER DE SOUZA
To ask the Minister for Manpower what programmes and initiatives have been created to assist Singaporeans to secure employment and to encourage companies and employers to create new job vocations and opportunities in the present economic climate.
NOTICE PAPER NO. 392 OF 2016
QUESTION NO. 675 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: ASSOC PROF DANIEL GOH PEI SIONG
To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) to date this year, how many PMETs under 40 years of age have been made redundant; (b) what is the rationale to restrict the Career Support Programme for PMETs to those who have been unemployed for six months or more; and (c) whether this restriction to access the programme should be removed for the PMETs.
NOTICE PAPER NO. 392 OF 2016
QUESTION NO. 677 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: DR TAN WU MENG
To ask the Minister for Manpower whether the Ministry will consider upgrading the national Jobs Bank to a national Jobs Registry by (i) making it mandatory for employers to advertise all job openings in parallel within the national Jobs Bank even if the job opening has been advertised through other platforms and (ii) requiring employers to report hiring outcomes to the Ministry.
NOTICE PAPER NO. 398 OF 2016
QUESTION NO. 689 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: JESSICA TAN SOON NEO
To ask the Minister for Manpower what measures are in place to help displaced workers with new job opportunities and to create more quality jobs.
NOTICE PAPER NO. 398 OF 2016
QUESTION NO. 698 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: ANG WEI NENG
To ask the Minister for Manpower how are e2i and other relevant job matching agencies beefing up their effort to help Singaporeans find suitable jobs especially those affected by job redundancy.
- Madam Speaker, may I have your permission to take questions 10 to 21 together please.
- Madam Speaker, these 12 questions cover three broad areas: Major developments in our labour market, Employment support for our workers, and Regulation of foreign manpower supply.
- In response to Mr Patrick Tay and Mr Melvin Yong, on the ground, there is much concern that local employment growth has been flat. It went up by 700 last year, and came down by 200 in the first half of this year, giving a net increase of just 500 over 18 months. I am concerned too.
- Fortunately, while unemployment rate increased, it did not rise sharply. It exceeded the range of 2.6% - 2.9% registered in the past 5 years, to reach 3.0% in June 2016.
- I was puzzled. Why didn’t the sharp drop in local employment growth lead to a sharp rise in unemployment? With the help of my colleagues at MOM, I soon discovered that the main reason for the flat growth in local employment was a slowdown in local workforce growth. Let me share what I learnt with this House.
- Madam Speaker, with your permission, may I display a few charts on the LED screens please.
- In the 3 years from 2012 to 2014, an average of 226,000 locals joined, and 153,000 left the workforce each year, giving an average net increase of 73,000, or 79,000 if we were to include the self-employed.
- But in 2015, the number of locals entering dropped significantly by about 36,000, while the number leaving increased by about 37,000. This is a swing of 73,000, and this resulted in the flat growth in our local employment to just 700.
- This swing was partly cyclical. We saw that more people left employment after termination, and completion of contract and casual employment. More also left to pursue further studies and upgrading.
- But the swing was also structural, across all age groups. For those aged 25-64, our labour force participation rate of 83.1% is high and showing signs of plateauing. For the younger ones aged 15-24, the size of the cohort entering the labour force had already peaked in 2013 and started to decline since then. More importantly, the number of people retiring is also on the rise, doubling over the last 2 years. This will continue as more baby boomers enter retirement.
- In short, even though the numbers of exits and entries in our local workforce will fluctuate from year to year due to prevailing economic conditions and policy factors. But with ageing and lower birth rates, coupled with our relatively high labour force participation rate and low unemployment rate, we will see a continued slowdown of local labour force growth, towards negligible levels, or even stagnation in the next decade.
- This has three major implications.
- First, we must work our way towards more healthy economic growth.
- Even though flat local employment growth in the past 18 months did not lead to a sharp rise in unemployment rate or a sharp drop in labour force participation rate, we are concerned that this could still happen if the global economic situation does not improve, or worsens further.We must make sure that the current low growth of 1%-2% is transitional. Our future norm should be 2%-3% of quality growth, not 1%-2% of low growth.
- This is because our ultimate objective in pursuing growth is not growth itself, but to create jobs in sufficient quantity, and of good enough quality for our people to have better jobs, better wages and better careers.
- Madam, with our local workforce growth slowing, it does not mean we can afford to move slower too in our efforts to create jobs.
- I will use 2015 as an illustration. Even though local employment went up by only 700, the number of locals looking for jobs was many times higher than that. We must not forget that there were actually 190,000 new entries of young locals and re-entries of mature locals in that year alone. Many of them were not just looking for the same jobs vacated by those who have left employment. With better education and skills profile, they wanted better jobs to meet their higher expectations and aspirations. The same also applies to those who were already in the workforce. This is also why we can never slow down.
- To move faster, we have mobilised industry leaders, unions and economic agencies to create and re-create many more quality jobs in more than 20 sectors, as explained by Minister Lim Hng Kiang and Minister Iswaran. We have to make sure that this innovative growth of our future economy will also be an inclusive growth for all our people.
- Madam, second, our policy on foreign manpower must be well balanced.
- At one extreme, if we try to make up for the drop in local labour force growth by taking in many more foreign workers, the pace of our restructuring will slow. Eventually, we will become overly reliant on foreign manpower, and our wages will also stagnate without productivity gain.
- At the other extreme, if we tried to reduce the growth of foreign manpower to zero, zero local labour force growth plus zero foreign manpower growth will give us zero growth in total labour force. Our total labour force will eventually stagnate, and if labour productivity growth continues to remain at the current low level -- then zero growth in local workforce, zero growth in foreign manpower plus zero growth in productivity as we have seen in recent years -- it will give us zero growth in our GDP. Our economy will eventually stagnate too, and we cannot obviously allow this to happen.
- This is why we are transforming industries for higher productivity gains. We need to move towards higher productivity gains. At the same time, we are adopting a balanced approach in managing the inflow of foreign manpower.
- In response to Mr Liang Eng Hwa and Ms Foo Mee Har, the annual increase in foreign manpower has dropped significantly by more than two-thirds, from the last peak of 80,000 in 2011 to about 24,000 in the past two years. We are increasingly more selective in terms of qualifications and experience of the individual foreigners. At the same time, more importantly, to ensure that our people are treated fairly at all levels in all industries, we have included the adoption of fair and progressive HR practices as part of our Work Pass criteria.
- This balanced approach will enable our combined workforce of locals and foreigners to complement each other better and compete more aggressively for good investments globally, such as the opening of Micron’s expanded facility here last month, as cited by Minister Iswaran. We need to compete and win many more of such good investments so that we can keep creating better quality growth for the economy and, more importantly, better quality jobs for our people.
- Madam, third, we must minimise job-skill mismatches and maximise the connectivity between job opportunities and jobseekers.
- In response to Mr Desmond Choo and Mr Liang Eng Hwa, we share their concern that we could see a higher number of layoffs than before, especially in sectors facing weak demand. We are doing more to help our workers in this period of economic transition in terms of training support, wage support, job search and career conversion.
- In response to Mr Patrick Tay, Mr Ang Wei Neng, Mr Ang Hin Kee, Mr Christopher de Souza, Ms Jessica Tan and Mr Desmond Choo, we have stepped up job matching and career services with the introduction of the Adapt and Grow initiative this year.
- In the first 8 months of this year, Workforce Singapore and e2i assisted 20,000 active jobseekers. More than 13,000 of them managed to find jobs in various sectors including Infocomm Technology, Healthcare, Early Childhood Care and Education, Professional Services, Admin and Support, Biologics Manufacturing, Transport and Logistics, just to name the key ones.
- The number of successful job placements is also much more than last year. For the PMETs, the number of PMETs who managed to secure jobs with our employment support went up by 45%; for the rank-and-file workers, it went up by 12%. In fact, of the 13,000 successful jobseekers, 45% of them, or 5,700, were PMETs and 55%, or 7,300, were rank-and-file workers. They came from various age groups – one in three were below 40 years old, one in four between 40 and 49, and 40%, or two in five, were aged 50 and above.In other words, we are helping not just the younger workers, but also helping the middle-age as well as the mature workers to secure jobs.
- We are doing more for the rank-and-file. We stepped up our Reskilling for Jobs initiative. We have also created more work trial programmes to help the rank-and-file workers to try out jobs which they may not be not familiar or comfortable with. They try out the jobs first. After three months, after six months, then they decide whether to continue.
- We are also doing much more for the PMETs. In response to Mr Melvin Yong, we rolled out 24 new Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs) this year in 14 sectors, such as International Trade and Cybersecurity. We started the year with only 22 PCPs. By the end of this year, we will have more than 50 PCPs to help many more PMETs to convert to professions and industries with growth potential.
- We have also provided extra support for mid-career PMETs aged 40 and above. We believe that they need the extra help. We are doing more for them, especially those who have been unemployed for more than 6 months. The Career Support Programme (CSP) was introduced a year ago to help them with wage support.
- In response to the questions from Assoc Prof Daniel Goh, we are seeing a higher share of PMETs among residents made redundant. In fact, in the first half of this year, of the 5,700 locals retrenched, about 4,000 of them were PMETs. In other words, 70% of local retrenched workers were PMETs. We have therefore extended the CSP since May this year to two additional groups of PMETs: Firstly, all PMETs made redundant who are aged 40 and above, even if they have been unemployed for less than 6 months, we waived the requirement for six months of unemployment. At the same time, we have also extended this CSP to all PMETs made redundant and unable to find jobs after 6 months, even if they less than 40 years old. For the younger ones, likewise, we have waived the age requirement as well – after six months of unemployment.
- Madam, jobs is the best welfare and full employment is the best protection for our people and our workers.
- Our efforts in industry transformation, as outlined by Minister Lim Hng Kiang and Minister Iswaran, will lead to better jobs and careers. Our efforts through SkillsFuture will lead to better workers with deeper and newer skills. And with Adapt & Grow, the focus of MOM is to connect them better to each other – Better jobs to better workers, Better workers to better jobs.
- The National Jobs Bank has been useful in helping our local jobseekers gain access to more jobs, especially PMET jobs. Today, about 180,000 registered users are gaining access to the Jobs Bank. And about 25,700 employers have registered with the Jobs Bank. At any time, there are about 60,000 active jobs on our Jobs Bank looking for workers, and every day, we receive about 7,000 job applications.
- In response to Dr Tan Wu Meng, we do not intend to make it mandatory for all companies to post all job vacancies on the Jobs Bank and to report all hiring outcomes to MOM, as suggested.
- Instead, we will transform the National Jobs Bank into a one-stop and non-stop online marketplace. It will bring together employers, including those currently not advertising on Jobs Bank, to bring all their jobs onto this marketplace and to connect these employers and their jobs to active and passive jobseekers of all ages. Jobseekers will be able to explore new career opportunities and conduct job searches on their own through this online marketplace anytime, anywhere without having to wait for the next job fair. They can be young adults looking for their first jobs, mid-careers looking for their next careers, or mature workers looking to remain active.
- In response to Mr Desmond Choo, for those who need advice on what jobs and careers to pursue, whether they are current jobseekers or what the Secretary-General of NTUC called “future jobseekers”, such as vulnerable workers in industries facing poor prospects, we will leverage the Skills Framework to help them more and to serve them better.
- With the Skills Framework, jobseekers can clearly see what are the career paths, occupations, skills requirements and training programmes available to them in every major sector. The Skills Frameworks for Hotel and Accommodation Services, and Early Childhood Care & Education have already been launched. If I may just share this with you, this is the Skills Framework for the Hotel sector. With this Skills Framework, you can see clearly there are four career paths for anyone to pursue – from front desk to housekeeping, to sales and marketing, to revenue management. I asked them what happened to the fifth path, F&B. They said that would be coming under the F&B Skills Framework. So, any jobseekers can see clearly these are the four plus one to come career paths they can pursue.
- In here, they can see very clearly there are altogether 91 job functions they can apply for. And if they want to apply for any one of these 91 job functions, there are 291 job skillsets they can pursue. If they want to pursue any of those skillsets, there are more than 1,000 training programmes, all laid out in place for them to pursue.
- This is how effective the Skills Framework is and will be in the future. We will be using the Skills Framework, sector by sector, to provide career coaching, counselling to jobseekers to help them discover for themselves which career, which job, which path is more suitable for them.
- Last, but not least, even salary range is defined in here. So, you see the jobs ladder, the skills ladder as well as the salary ladder. And as I mentioned earlier, skills framework for two sectors have just been launched and more will come. Madam, in Mandarin, please.
- Madam, in Mandarin please.
目前 本地员工的总数 虽然还在上升，不过，增长速度已经放慢。
由于人口老化，加上 生育率下降，按这个趋势发展下去，再过十年，本地员工总数可能会达到 饱和点，停止上升。
如果我们还不调整策略，还是继续的大量增加工作岗位，将来 大多数增加的工作数量就得要靠外地员工 来承担
这对我们的国家和人民都是弊多于利的。所以，我们在创造工作所面对的挑战 将不再是: 更多工作就是更好，而是: 更多更好的工作才是真正的好。
我们必须确保目前的经历是 过渡性的短痛, 绝对不可让它演变成为新常态的长痛。
我确保我们的中小型企业，我们会尽全力帮他们转型；更重要的是，我也确保 我们的工友们，我们会尽全力帮他们吸取新的技能，适应新的工作。让我们大家 举国上下，一起 加快步伐，尽快 走出过渡期，走向更好、更能持续 的 经济增长。
Madam, in conclusion, as we enter the next stage towards 2% to 3% of quality growth I assure our fellow Singaporeans that the tripartite partners are doing our very best for them, at the national level, as well as at the sectoral level.
We need our businesses to do their part, to transform and grow. At the same time, we need our people to do their part too, to adapt and grow.
Last time round during the global financial crisis, we cut costs together, we saved jobs together, we upturned the downturn together. This time round, our challenge is to: transform together, adapt together, so that we can all grow together. Working together, I believe that we can succeed once again.