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May Day Message 2017 by Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister for Manpower

  1. Our Singapore economy is in transition. GDP growth has slowed to about 2 per cent in the past two years from an average of 4.5 per cent previously. Retrenchment is on the rise, and resident unemployment rate has increased to 3 per cent last year after holding steady at about 2.8 per cent since 2012.
  2. This is not a first. It has happened before in the past 20 years such as the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, dotcom crash in 2001, SARS outbreak in 2003 and the Global Financial Crisis in 2009.
  3. However, this time, it is different. Our economy is still growing, not shrinking. The rise in unemployment is more gradual and remains below the previous peaks of more than 5 per cent during SARS and more than 4 per cent during the Global Financial Crisis.
  4. Even so, the challenges we face today are no less daunting. The transition this time is less cyclical, but more structural. Some sectors are still under stress and unemployment could rise further.
  5. Unlike previous recoveries, more time and effort is needed to get through this transition completely.
  6. To emerge with a future economy and workforce that is different and leaner, we need to strive for better and faster adoption of technology, faster pace of innovation and higher productivity, so that we can compete globally for not just good investments and markets, but also good jobs and careers.
  7. There is no shortcut to success.
  8. Enterprises, big and small, that are able to transform faster, will be able to grow stronger in the future economy. Likewise for workers, young and old. Those who are able to cope with workplace disruptions, learn new skills and work with new technologies, will be able to better capture the many opportunities we are creating for them, here and overseas.
  9. It is never easy for any country to transform its economy and workforce. But, here at home, we have succeeded time and again to emerge stronger every time. This time, we can and will succeed again.
  10. We are confident because our tripartite partnership is healthy and strong. We are fully committed to keep doing our best to help our businesses transform pervasively as one innovative economy, and help our workers move forward together as one inclusive workforce. In partnership, we can turn technology to our advantage, threats into opportunities, and short-term pains into long-term gains for all.
  11. On this May Day, we celebrate the tremendous contributions of all workers for making Singapore what it is today. Let us all pledge to always work together and support one another, complete the economic transition successfully to create a better future for our people, our businesses and our nation.
  12. Happy May Day to all.