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Oral Answer by Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower, to PQ on Downturn Measures

NOTICE PAPER NO. 1754 OF 2019 FOR THE SITTING ON 6 AUGUST 2019
QUESTION NO. 2972 FOR ORAL ANSWER

MP: Mr Desmond Choo

To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) how effective have the previous downturn measures been in helping workers to stay in their jobs or find new opportunities; and (b) what are the plans that the Ministry has in place to support workers should the economy continue to slow down and jobs may be lost.

 

Answer

  1. The most severe downturn in recent years was triggered by the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008. Measures taken then helped companies to manage excess manpower and to invest in skills for the recovery. In a MOM survey carried out in 2009, three in four companies with earlier plans to retrench workers reported they would postpone or reduce the number of affected workers due to Government assistance schemes such as Jobs Credit and the Skills Programme for Upgrading & Resilience (SPUR). Helped by improving external conditions, resident unemployment rate rose but did not exceed 5% throughout the GFC.
     
  2. Our current situation and outlook are completely different from that in 2008. For example, in the first half of 2009 retrenchment exceeded 19,000, with analysts estimating as many as 100,000 job losses during that downturn. Thus far, retrenchments have not picked up. In the second quarter of 2019, retrenchments remained fairly low at 2,300. Total employment growth slowed but it did not stall. Employment growth remained robust in sectors such as (i) Information & Communications, (ii) Community, Social & Personal Services, (iii) Professional Services, and (iv) Financial Services. This suggests that while most employers are exercising greater caution in hiring, most are not laying off existing workers.

  3.  MOM, together with MTI and other government agencies, is monitoring the economy and labour market closely. We are ready to step up support for companies and workers under the Adapt and Grow initiative. Workers can tap on employment assistance and programmes offered by Workforce Singapore (WSG) and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i). These include the Career Support Programme, Career Trial and Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs) that provide wage and training support to help workers access new jobs or re-skill for new opportunities. Jobseekers can also consider taking up Attach-and-Train PCPs, which train workers ahead of hiring demand. These are available in selected sectors with strong growth potential. In addition, WSG’s Careers Connect and NTUC’s e2i career centres offer employment facilitation services such as career coaching, employability workshops, job fairs and job matching.

  4. The Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation, which was formed in 2016, proactively reaches out to retrenched workers and provides them with timely employment support, including job matching. The Taskforce will also continue to engage retrenching companies on responsible retrenchment practices.