Written Answer by Mrs Josephine Teo Minister for Manpower on Strengthening Singaporean Core
NOTICE PAPER NO. 2121 OF 2020 FOR THE SITTING ON OR AFTER 29 MAY 2020
QUESTION NO. 1727 FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
MP: Mr Murali Pillai
To ask the Minister for Manpower in light of the deteriorating economic conditions that may lead to job losses, whether any steps will be taken to strengthen the Singaporean core in the workforce.
In the Unity, Resilience and Solidarity Budgets, the Government introduced measures to provide greater assurance and support to workers and businesses. Budget support measures, including the Jobs Support Scheme, have helped businesses to retain and retrain local workers. These measures have provided some cushion for the labour market. While the number of retrenchments rose in 1Q 2020, it was significantly lower than the quarterly peak during the Global Financial Crisis (1Q 2020: 3,000 (preliminary) vs 1Q 2009: 12,760).
2. However, I expect labour market conditions to weaken in the second quarter given the sharp fall in demand globally, as well as the implementation of circuit breaker measures in Singapore. We have therefore stepped up efforts to help displaced workers reskill and find new employment opportunities.
3. The recently-announced SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package under the Fortitude Budget aims to create a total of 100,000 jobs, traineeships, and training opportunities.
4. We will be expanding the SGUnited Jobs initiative to provide more than 40,000 jobs for locals in 2020. There is a wide range of job opportunities under the SGUnited Jobs initiative, which has been running since end-March. This includes short-term jobs to handle COVID-19 related operations, as well as longer-term jobs created in the Public Service and publicly-funded sectors, such as healthcare and early childhood education. We will also scale up career conversion programmes under the Adapt and Grow and TechSkills Accelerator initiatives to help locals join sectors with strong growth potential.
5. We are providing our recent and new graduates, as well as mid-career jobseekers, with more opportunities to gain valuable industry-relevant experience through the SGUnited Traineeships and SGUnited Mid-Career Traineeships programmes. These will increase their employability and prepare them to seize new opportunities when the economy recovers.
6. In the Unity Budget, we introduced a hiring incentive under the SkillsFuture Mid-Career Support Package. We are now enhancing the hiring incentive to cover all local workers, with higher support for mature workers.
7. We are keeping our foreign workforce policy tight to ensure that our foreign workforce complements rather than substitutes our local workforce. We are maintaining the increases to the minimum qualifying salary at the Employment Pass and S Pass level which I announced this year, and are continuing with previously announced plans to cut the S Pass quota in various sectors. The quota system ensures companies retain a core of Singaporeans if they wish to continue hiring work permit and S Pass holders; a smaller base of locals will also mean a smaller quota. We also strengthened the Fair Consideration Framework earlier this year by requiring more jobs to be advertised and raising the penalties for all forms of discriminatory hiring practices.
8. Strengthening the Singaporean core in the workforce remains our objective and we will continue to pursue this, even as we take into account current economic conditions.