May Day Message 2023 by Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng
In 2022, we worked together to seize opportunities in the post-COVID-19 recovery, leading to growth in resident employment, improvement in unemployment rates, and decline in retrenchments. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to our tripartite partners for coming together to act swiftly and decisively to support jobs and improve livelihoods. As we turn the chapter on COVID-19, let us steel ourselves to take on challenges in the post-pandemic world with renewed confidence.
Renewing Our Social Compact
Having demonstrated our strength and unity in crisis, we must ride on the momentum to continue the transformation of our workforce. The Ministry of Manpower, Ministry of Trade and Industry, and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) are co-leading the Empower Pillar in the Forward Singapore Exercise launched by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong in June last year. It is an opportunity for us to work with the public on how we can renew our social compact to deliver opportunities and assurance to all Singaporean workers at every stage of life.
We want to journey with Singaporeans in every step of the way in your careers. This goes beyond supporting your employment, to supporting your career and empowering you to take personal responsibility for your career. We also strive to build a strong economy that provides good jobs for our people and an inclusive labour market where workers with different skill sets across various occupations and trades feel valued for their contributions and are able to carry out their work with dignity and purpose. After a lifetime of contribution, Singaporean workers who are retiring should also be assured that their basic retirement needs will be met.
Journeying with Workers and Businesses
The tripartite partners will be at the forefront in helping workers and businesses adapt and thrive in a constantly changing environment where technological disruptions and external events will continue to put great pressures on the global economy. Singapore’s approach is not to protect every job, but to protect workers by helping them to reskill and upskill, to progress to better jobs. We are also committed to journeying with businesses in their growth, to support them to transform and remain relevant. A coordinated effort across multiple stakeholders will be required to prepare our workers and businesses for jobs and the economy of the future, and individual responsibility is key.
1) Equipping Workers for the Post-pandemic World
Building on NTUC’s efforts to ensure that the workforce remains future-ready and resilient, the Government introduced a $70 million NTUC Company Training Committees (CTC) grant at Budget 2022 to co-fund workforce and enterprise transformation. CTCs are working with employers to drive reskilling and upskilling of workers to meet new business demands. Workers will need to embrace these opportunities to upgrade themselves and new challenges ahead, for better pay, jobs and career progression.
2) Progressive Workplace for All
A level-playing field is crucial in ensuring that every worker, regardless of background, can contribute and achieve his or her fullest potential. In February this year, the Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness released an interim report with recommendations on how new legislation can prohibit discrimination and strengthen protection for workers, while preserving workplace harmony and a non-litigious workplace culture. The proposed legislation will enhance protections against discrimination for all workers including seniors, women and persons with disability. The Labour Movement has played a critical role in codeveloping the recommendations and will continue to play an important role after the legislation is introduced, such as in supporting and assisting workers with dispute resolution.
3) Uplifting Vulnerable Workers
We are pressing on with our efforts to uplift lower-wage workers through key initiatives such as Progressive Wages and Workfare. The Progressive Wage Model (PWM) helps lower-wage workers see annual wage increases alongside skills upgrading and improvements in productivity. We have made much progress with the recent implementation of the PWM in the Retail and Food Services sectors, and occupations such as Administrators and Drivers, as well as the new Progressive Wage Mark accreditation scheme. By July, the suite of Progressive Wage moves will benefit over 9 in 10
full-time lower-wage workers.
4) Strengthening Protections for Platform Workers
Tripartite partners recognise that Platform Workers are in a precarious situation. We are committed to strengthening the basic protections of Platform Workers in a sustainable way for the platform
ecosystem. The Government has accepted the recommendations by the Advisory Committee on Platform Workers, which call for Platform Workers to have adequate financial protection in case of work injury, improved retirement and housing adequacy, and better representation. The Labour Movement will continue to be our steadfast partner as we implement the recommendations from the
second half of 2024.
5) Professionalising Skilled Trades
We are also partnering NTUC to look into how we can redesign skilled trades, particularly those that remain indispensable in our economy. The objective is to offer better salaries and career and skill progression so as to attract, retain, and reward workers in these jobs. Over time, if we are able to upgrade the prospects and perceptions of such jobs with more attractive career pathways, we will be able to build a more inclusive labour market that rewards mastery of skills and increase the number of locals in these roles sustainably.
Tripartism to Lead Singapore Forward
Tripartism is a model that is unique to Singapore and is one of the key factors for our success. The trust between tripartite partners was built up painstakingly, through generations of partnerships between the unions, employers and the Government. Over the years, tripartite partners have convened to tackle pressing issues of the day and chart our paths towards longer-term economic and social goals. Our progress on various fronts ranging from workforce transformation to the strengthening of workers’ protections shows how decades of trust and collaboration between tripartite partners have translated into concrete policies and programmes.
For this May Day, let us acknowledge and appreciate the indispensable role played by the Labour Movement in our nation's progress. I say with every confidence that, with the continued close cooperation between unions, employers and the Government, with grit and gumption, we can overcome any adversity and even black swans.
I wish everyone a wonderful May Day.