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Speech at NTUC Infocomm and Media Cluster National Day Observance Ceremony

Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister of Manpower and Second Minister for Defence, Jalan Benaan Kapal

Mr Seng Han Thong
Assistant Secretary General of NTUC

Mr Johari Modh Sadli
NTUC Infocomm and Media Cluster Vice Chairman

Union leaders and Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

I am pleased to join the workers, union leaders and management of the Infocomm & Media Cluster in celebrating our 42nd National Day.

2.   We have much to celebrate as Singapore continues to experience strong economic growth, with a record of 61,900 jobs created in the 2nd quarter of this year. Prospects are good and the job market looks promising for the remainder of 2007. The outlook for the infocomm sector is bright with continued growth backed by rising demand and new infocomm technologies, products and services entering the market. Singapore's Infocomm Technology industry raked in revenues of around $37 billion in 2005 and employs about 111,400 professionals.

3.   To realise our vision of becoming an Intelligent Nation, Singapore has launched a 10-year masterplan, known as “Intelligent Nation 2015”, to foster innovation, integration and internationalisation in the infocomm sector. The infocomm industry will be experiencing very dynamic and exciting transformations as it rides on the wave of globalisation and rapid IT innovation. The Government has also planned to spend $1 billion over the next 10 years to develop the industry further. The spending, which include tax incentives and grants to attract companies to invest in Singapore, will help the industry to contribute $10 billion a year to the local economy by 2018 and create at least 6,000 new jobs.

4.   Such rapid growth and the fast pace of technological changes will undoubtedly throw up new challenges for governments, regulators, companies and workers of the industry. One of these challenges is the training of workers to meet the needs of the industry. Workers must continue to innovate, reinvent and adapt to the rapidly changing environment.

5.   I am pleased to note that the union and management have been making efforts to help workers upgrade their skills and enhance their capabilities in order to seize new and better opportunities in the industry. The unions have also been making concerted efforts to encourage the employment and re-employment of older workers. This will be the most important challenge in the decades to come for us all as our population ages.

6.   Prime Minister Lee has announced several changes during the NDR to help workers work longer and save more for their retirement. Re-employment legislation will be in effect, by Jan 1, 2012. WIS will be increased for those age 55 and a further increase for those age 60 and above when then scheme starts next year. CPF members will enjoy a 1% increase in CPF interest rate for the first $20,000 in their Ordinary Account and up to the first $60,000 in all CPF accounts combined. This will assist the low and middle-income Singaporeans to build up their CPF savings. The Minimum Sum draw-down-age (DDA) will also be raised to 63 in 2012, and will be raised gradually to reach age 65 by 2018, in line with the re-employment legislation in 2012 which will require employers to offer re-employment to workers reaching 62, up to age 65.

7.   Even after these changes, there would be many that would live beyond 85 years. To ensure that they continue to have a stream of income, the Government will introduce longevity insurance (LI). I know many CPF members have concerns about this and are unsure what this means for them. I would like to reassure members that only a small part of the Minimum Sum (MS) will be needed as the premium for LI. The major portion of the MS can still be drawn by members at the DDA. We will take time to study how best this can be done. Over the next few months, we will consult widely and involved industry experts and union leaders. We will take into consideration members' feedback to help us devise longevity insurance schemes that can help give us peace of mind if we live longer than expected. There will be a proper process to do this and members can give their inputs.

8.   Yesterday, NTUC and its affiliated unions collectively gave a resounding affirmation for these changes. The employers through SNEF also gave their support for re-employment legislation. This tripartite consensus to help our older workers work longer augurs well. If our economy continues to remain competitive and grows, we will be able to absorb these older workers. Last year our economy created 180,000 jobs. We only need to keep 10,000 men age 60 to 64, to raise the employment rate to 80%. Similar efforts will be placed to retain or bring back women into the workforce.

9.   Many companies have already started re-employment practices. For example, Singpost has re-employed workers on reaching the retirement age to different job to suit their abilities, although at a lower salary. Likewise, IDA continued to employ one worker in the same job when he reached the retirement age of 62. MediaCorp has re-employed 6 workers aged 62 years to continue working with appropriate adjustments to their salary levels. The SPH union and management have also agreed to put in a formal re-employment clause in the Employees' Collective Agreement. These mature and long service workers are valued by their employers and given the opportunity to continue working because the management recognises and values their skills and experience.

10.   These companies are leading the way to implement re-employment practices before the implementation of the re-employment legislation in 2012. They will benefit from being pioneers in this effort, as they can continue to tap on the contributions and expertise of their workers beyond 62 years. In the long term, the sum effect of the changes will significantly strengthen our economic and social systems to better address the challenges of an ageing population.

11.   Lastly, I would like to commend the Infocomm & Media Cluster of the National Trades Union Congress - comprising key union leaders from UTES , SPHEU , SUBE , RLEU , TPGEU , SNUJ , and NTUC under the able stewardship of my parliamentary colleague Mr. Seng Han Thong – for its foresight in reviewing the developments and issues faced by older workers and proposing measures to help the workers meet new challenges.

12.   On this note, I wish you all a happy and meaningful National Day.


1Union of Telecom Employees of Singapore

2Singapore Press Holdings Employees Union

3Singapore Union of Broadcasting Employees

4Reuter Local Employees Union of Singapore

5Times Publishing Group Employees Union

6Singapore National Union of Journalists