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May Day Message by Mrs Josephine Teo Minister for Manpower

A year ago, I set up the Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers. After many rounds of consultations and careful consideration, the workgroup reached a tripartite consensus to gradually raise the retirement age beyond 62 and the re-employment age beyond 67. This is a significant milestone that will provide more assurance to seniors who wish to continue working.

I am confident it will motivate both workers and employers to invest in skills upgrading and job redesign for older workers. The workgroup will provide its detailed recommendations later this year, on how far and how fast the retirement and re-employment ages should be raised, as well as the CPF contribution rates for workers aged 55 and above. In the meantime, we should continue to make our workplaces more age-friendly. To boost such efforts, MOM will also review the WorkPro and Special Employment Credit schemes.

As we plan for these longer term moves, it is equally important to address present day concerns. Although the labour market performed better in 2018 – local employment grew strongly, unemployment and retrenchments were down, and wages rose – there are still workers seeking jobs or career advancement.  

Measures to tighten foreign workforce controls will keep up the pace of restructuring, and nudge employers to improve job quality to meet staffing needs. Technology will also change the jobs landscape, presenting both challenges and opportunities.

We will walk the tech journey with our workers, so that they can access good jobs our economy continues to create. Last year, the Adapt and Grow initiative helped more than 30,000 workers take up new jobs, an increase of about 20% over 2017. Nearly 5,000 people were reskilled and placed into new jobs through more than 100 Professional Conversion Programmes, with many getting wage increases. More broadly, SkillsFuture benefitted about 465,000 Singaporeans through a wide range of lifelong learning programmes in 2018. 

Together with the sector agencies, we have started to implement the 23 Industry Transformation Maps with innovation, productivity, jobs and skills as priorities. We are encouraged by the strong international interest and positive comments about Singapore’s approach during the recent Future of Work conference held jointly with the International Labour Organization.

Aligned with NTUC’s rallying call that “Every Worker Matters”, we will uplift low-wage workers through the 3W framework focusing on Workfare, Workright and Workcare. 

The recently enhanced Workfare Income Supplement will boost the incomes of some 440,000 Singaporean workers by up to 30%. Workright will help workers better understand key employment rights and ensure employers fulfil their obligations. The Workcare initiative is our latest addition to enhance the welfare of low-wage workers such as the provision of rest areas, and promote greater appreciation of these workers by society at large. 

The updated Progressive Wage Model has benefitted more than 70,000 workers in the security, landscape and cleaning sectors. It will be extended to lift technicians over the next three years.

As we commemorate the Singapore Bicentennial, let us also remember the 50th anniversary of the Labour Movement’s Modernization Seminar. Since 1969, NTUC has been a steadfast partner to the Government and employers, helping to realise the vision of a Singapore that is both pro-worker and pro-business. As we celebrate the remarkable contributions of our workers, we should also reaffirm the achievements of our unique brand of tripartism. 

Tripartism was and remains the biggest strength of Singapore in forging new paths for our workers. Let us re-commit to working together, as one united Tripartite Movement, to create a brighter future for our people, our businesses and our nation.

Happy May Day!