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Speech at Ministry Of Manpower National Day Observance Ceremony 2010

Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Manpower , Singapore Airlines Theatre, Lasalle College of The Arts

Mr Stephen Lee,
President, Singapore National Employers Federation

Ms Cham Hui Fong
Director of Industry Relations Department, National Trades Union Congress

MOMers and fellow Singaporeans


  1. Today, we are here to celebrate our 45th National Day. This year, the mood is clearly more optimistic, with a resurgent economy and a positive outlook. Job creation is stronger, with total employment rising by 63,000 in the first half of 20101. Employers also reported improving hiring expectations.
  2. MTI has projected a booming GDP growth forecast of 13%-15% for 20102, which puts Singapore as one of the fastest growing countries in the world.

    Keeping our Flag high
  3. This year’s national day theme, “Live our Dreams, Fly our Flag”, reflects the upbeat sentiments and collective sense of accomplishment of Singaporeans. Indeed, we have a lot to be proud of, for responding firmly to recession and recovering swiftly from it.
  4. As we look back over the last 12 to 18 months, MOM and our tripartite partners have many reasons to be proud – for the way we worked together during the downturn to bring Singapore out of the recession. Leveraging on mutual trust and understanding forged over the decades, the tripartite partners rallied together, to help companies and employees manage the downturn and prepare for the recovery. We have succeeded in keeping retrenchment and unemployment low, and at the same time, helped workers upgrade their skills and enhanced their competencies. Companies which have retained and upgraded their workers are now in a much stronger position to ride the wave of recovery than those that have lost their workers during the recession. Instead of having to rehire and retrain workers, they have ready capacity to capitalise on the growing business orders.
  5. Fighting the recession as a team also allowed tripartite partners to renew our partnership and strengthen our mutual trust. We have emerged from the recession stronger than before, with our flag flying high.

    Living our Dream
  6. Singapore will face new challenges, but we will also see new opportunities. What is our dream? Our dream is to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth, not just for next few years but over the long term. To realise our dream, we will need to focus our efforts on productivity improvement. This way, we can ensure that Singaporeans will have better jobs and enjoy better wages over time.
  7. Earlier this week, the Labour Movement launched a new $40 million Inclusive Growth Programme (IGP) to drive productivity improvements and uplift the skills and wages of 25,000 low wage workers over the next two years. This is a good initiative and I applaud our union leaders for playing their part in fostering inclusive growth.
  8. Last month, SNEF also launched a Productivity and Trust Leadership Initiative, the first of which is the Productivity Leadership Seminars for CEOs held together with the Singapore Management University. A Trust Leadership Programme is also being developed by SNEF working closely with MOM and NTUC. These are set to benefit SNEF’s 2,000 members, which together employ about 600,000 workers in Singapore.
  9. Tripartite efforts have played an integral role in uplifting the employment conditions, skill-sets and HR practices, resulting in more professional standards and better skilled workers. I am confident the tripartite partners will continue to play their part, and work together towards inclusive growth for all Singaporeans.

    MOM’s role for the Singapore Dream
  10. MOM will also play our part in preparing Singapore and Singaporeans for the future. We will focus on three key areas: raising the quality of the workforce, leveraging on our aging workforce, and enabling progressive workplace practices.
  11. First, on raising the quality of our workforce. I have announced earlier that our national Continuing Education and Training (CET) system will do more in three areas. Firstly, we will invest more in infrastructure and targeted programmes. $2.5 billion will be invested in CET over the next five years. Next, we will support more workers by broadening the scope of CET to cover the entire workforce; both rank and file workers, as well as Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMETs). We will also deepen the CET system to enable workers to acquire specialist skills and competencies. We will improve the quality of CET, by raising the standards of training providers and professionals.
  12. Lastly, we will also do more to help the lower wage workers upgrade their skills. Under Workfare, we enhanced the Workfare Income Supplement scheme (WIS) and introduced Workfare Training Support Scheme (WTS Scheme) to encourage regular work and provides incentive for low wage workers to improve their skills, take on higher valued jobs, and move up the wage ladder.
  13. Mr Omar bin Wahab is one such worker who has benefited from training, and has seen his career progressed thereafter. You may have seen him in the Workfare campaign posters and bus advertisements. He started out working in the water industry as a technician, but decided to pursue another career path after being retrenched. Mr Omar joined the security industry initially as a guard. After successfully completing the WSQ Security course, he became a supervisor and his pay increased to an average of more than $1,000 a month. Mr Omar not only gets a higher pay, he also gets a total of $2,370 in Workfare for the year. He is glad that he had the opportunity to go for training to perform better at his job, and is even happier that Workfare has helped to supplement his take-home pay.
  14. Our second focus to achieve sustainable inclusive growth is to tackle the issue of an ageing population. Today, Singapore has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, with one in two aged 65 and above expected to live beyond 85.3 An ageing population and fast-tightening labour market means businesses will have to tap on a multi-generational workforce to make full use of available manpower resources. We need to turn this challenge into our strength. The re-employment of older employees is thus a key focus for MOM. Older employees represent a growing pool of silver talents with a lifetime of experience and skills. Companies should tap on the skills and valuable knowledge of these workers. Remaining in the workforce would also encourage life-long learning and keep older Singaporeans involved, engaged and active.
  15. With re-employment legislation scheduled to come into effect in 2012, MOM has been reaching out to companies to help them be re-employment ready. This has proven successful, with 64% of private establishments reported that they have implemented measures to allow their local employees to work beyond the statutory retirement age of 624. But more can be done. We will need continued tripartite support to press on with our efforts to help both employers and employees be re-employment ready, and encourage companies to adopt the tripartite guidelines on re-employment ahead of legislation.
  16. Ms Angie Ng is a good example of a re-employed worker, who is still contributing to her company with her valuable experience. The youngest of 16 children, Angie took a bold step and applied for a nursing course in the UK in 1966. Upon returning to Singapore 5 years later, she started working in an Operating Theatre. She has risen up the ranks in her 21 years in nursing, and is now a Director at the Operating Theatre at Thomson Medical Centre. Initially wanting to retire, Angie decided to be re-employed on a part-time basis, and is now able to continue to do what she loves and does best, as well as spend more time with her grandchildren. Angie is 66 years old this year.
  17. Planning for retirement and healthcare adequacy is also crucial with an ageing population. CPF LIFE will be fully rolled out in 2013, to help Singaporeans secure a lifelong income. Last year, we made CPF Life available earlier for older cohorts of Singaporeans to opt in.
  18. Our third focus is on progressive workplace practices and human capital strategies. MOM has been working closely with the tripartite partners using a promotional and educational approach to complement enforcement. One important and successful innovation is the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) centre set up in 2007, where the tripartite partners work closely with employers to change their mindset towards adopting fair, responsible and merit-based employment practices.
  19. With globalisation, rapidly changing market conditions and a more diverse workforce, the war for talents will intensify. Employers need to go beyond basic and fair employment practices. They need to adopt more progressive employment practices to attract and retain talents, such as the implementation of work-life strategies, flexible wages and benefits, flexible work arrangements, and the re-employment of older employees.
  20. Such practices often involve the changing of employers’ and employees’ mindset over a period of time. Today, various tripartite bodies, channels and networks such as the National Wages Council (NWC), the Tripartite Committee on the Re-employment of Older Employees and the Singapore Tripartism Forum (STF) have been instrumental in formulating guidelines and measures, and engaging companies, unions and workers to implement progressive employment practices. Moving forward, MOM will work closely with tripartite partners to coordinate our efforts and render more help to companies in this regard.

    Coming Together for Singapore
  21. There is much to do in the year ahead. Even as we celebrate how far we have come during this National Day and remember the successful lessons of the past, we need to keep on our toes constantly, ready to adapt to the challenges and opportunities ahead of us.
  22. Everyone has a part to play in shaping Singapore’s future, and we must work hand-in-hand to grow together and share the fruits of our growth together. I would like to thank our tripartite partners for their unstinting support. The strength of our tripartite partnership will always be the key to achieving winning outcomes for businesses, workers and all Singaporeans.
  23. Lastly, I would like to thank you MOMers as well, for your hard work and dedication over the years. Let us continue to work together, to keep our Singapore flag flying high, and make our Singapore dream come true.
  24. Thank you, and happy 45th National Day.

1 Labour Market Employment Situation (30 July 2010)
2 MTI revised Growth Forecast 2010
3 Department of Statistics, Complete Life Table for Singapore Resident Population, 2009 (Preliminary).
4 Retirement and Re-employment Practices, (4 June 2010)