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Speech at The International Labour Organisation Asian Regional Forum on Growth, Employment and Decent Work

Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister of State for Manpower and Education, Beijing


Mr Chairman, on behalf of the Singapore delegation, I would like to thank the Director General and the Government of the People's Republic of China for the invitation to the High Level Tripartite Asian Regional Forum, and for the opportunity to address my esteemed counterparts from the region. The topic of growth, employment and decent work is a timely one especially for the Asian region.

Factors for Economic Growth

2.   Over the past three years, Singapore has enjoyed strong economic growth and we have created a record number of employment level and new jobs created, making our employment rate one of the highest in the world. In Singapore, this is possible because of a flexible and responsive labour market, one which allows companies to meet their changing manpower requirements in the rapidly evolving economic environment.

Emphasis on Workforce Development

3.   Singapore will continue to pursue labour market policies that support economic growth and create jobs. Central to this is the effort to continuously improve the quality of the workforce. Workers must be productive and adaptable so as to justify good wages and stay competitive. In this respect, Singapore places strong emphasis in developing and upgrading our workforce through both the Pre-Employment Training system for our children and the Continuing Education and Training system targeted at adult workers. In particular for the latter, we have been building up the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications system or WSQ system to facilitate adult learning, make skills upgrading more accessible to our workforce and provide better career progression pathways for our workers. For the employers, the WSQ system also helps to raise productivity and performance of their workers. It is therefore an important win-win strategy to ensure that our workers continue to be employable and possess relevant industry and occupational skills to remain competitive so that they can seize the new economic opportunities that emerge.

Using the Workfare Approach to Assist Vulnerable Workers

4.   As our economy continues to grow, we recognise that not all workers may enjoy full benefit from economic progress, particularly those with lower skills. While skills development remains important for these low-skill and low-wage workers, they will need more assistance. Singapore therefore fully supports the ILO agenda to create more and better jobs for all. In Singapore, we have adopted the "Workfare" approach, rather than welfare to help such workers. The policy objective of workfare is to help and encourage low-wage and vulnerable workers to find work and to remain working. If they work, they will receive help from the government to own their homes, educate their children, and put aside enough for their medical and retirement needs, through the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) Scheme introduced by the Singapore Government recently. The WIS scheme is expected to cost the Government about US$260 million per year.


5.   To conclude, I would like to stress the importance of a strong and harmonious industrial relations climate in order for these tripartite initiatives to work.  I would like to express my appreciation to the ILO for organising this Forum. I am confident that we will have constructive and fruitful discussions during the parallel working sessions over the next two days.  I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Government of the People's Republic of China for a very successful event.

6.   Thank you.