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Ministry of Manpower Workplan Seminar 2011 Keynote Address by Minister for Manpower, Mr Gan Kim Yong, 18 April 2011, 10.00am, Orchard Hotel

Mr Lim Swee Say, Secretary-General, NTUC
Mr John De Payva, President, NTUC
Mr Stephen Lee, President, SNEF
Mr Tony Chew, Chairman, SBF
Distinguished Guests,
Fellow MOMers,

A very good morning to all.
Let me welcome you to MOM's Workplan Seminar 2011.

Our Achievements in 2010

  1. The video we just saw reminds us of the challenges and anxiety we faced in 2009 during the recession and reminded us of how by working together, we have helped companies cope with the recession and help our workers save jobs. The Singapore economy rebounded with an impressive GDP growth of 14.5% last year.

  2. In 2010 we saw the largest number of Singaporeans employed than ever before.
  3. Overall employment increased by 3.9% as 116,000 jobs were created.
  4. At the same time – overall unemployment rate has dropped to 2.2%.
  5. Average monthly nominal earnings rose by 5.6%. Real earnings rose by 2.7%.
  6. Each of you here today has played a part in these achievements.
  7. However, we should not rest on our laurels. 2011 will be a year full of both opportunities and challenges.

    Economic Outlook in 2011 – Opportunities and Risks
  8. For 2011, we expect a healthy growth of between 4% and 6%. Q1 results showed that we have achieved a growth of 8.5%.
  9. Nonetheless, there are many uncertainties ahead of us. Sovereign debt crisis in Europe, as well as the unrest in the Middle East and unfolding crisis in Japan. .
  10. We must remain watchful and be prepared for any possible bumps in the journey ahead.
  11. Therefore, it is imperative that MOM and our tripartite partners continue to work together to ride the waves and achieve further progress for 2011 and beyond.
  12. We have to take this opportunity to strengthen our economy and society for the future by raising productivity and growing incomes for all Singaporeans.
  13. MOM will focus on three key pillars going forward: as represented by the theme of this year's Workplan Seminar, our three key pillars are: Productive Workforce. Progressive Workplace. Inclusive Growth.

    Moving towards a "Productive Workforce"
  14. A Productive Workforce is one that is skilled, flexible and dynamic: learning, upgrading and adapting all the time. This is a key element in our efforts to shift towards sustainable productivity-driven growth for Singapore.
  15. To improve productivity, my Ministry will provide greater and more targeted support to encourage workers at all levels, including rank-and-file workers and PMETs, and companies, especially SMEs, to participate in training.

    Rank-and-File workers – Expansion of WSQ system
  16. We will sharpen our efforts through the ongoing expansion of the WSQ system.
  17. Today we have over 13,000 WSQ courses over 26 WSQ frameworks. In 2011, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) has plans to add 3 new WSQ frameworks to extend the coverage of WSQ to more industry sectors.
  18. WDA will also explore new approaches, such as bringing training to the workplace to benefit the rank-and-file workers to help them overcome training barriers.

    PMETs – Greater Training Support
  19. For the Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians or PMETs in short, they too need training to remain productive and relevant.
  20. In today's fast changing, competitive environment, employers need professionals not only with deep and specialised skills, but who also possess relevant generic, broad-based, horizontal skills sets, or what we call the T-shaped PMETs.
  21. At this year's Budget and COS, we announced our commitment to invest $150 million in Skills Training for Excellence Programme (STEP).
  22. Some of the programmes under this initiative include master-classes by thought leaders like Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, as well as Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Embry-Riddle) in partnership with SIM University (UniSIM), sharing the latest development in aviation safety management.
  23. Other new courses include programmes to train productivity managers in the food and beverage (F&B), retail and hospitality sectors. We will roll out more targeted CET programmes for PMETs under STEP.
  24. To focus employers on productivity improvement rather than rely on low cost foreign manpower, we have raised the foreign worker levy and tightened the qualifying criteria to moderate demand for the foreign workforce and raise their quality.
  25. We have also raised the salary threshold to qualify for EP and S Pass, in order to encourage employers to be more selective and tilt the balance in favour of locals.
  26. In addition, we help local workers become more productive through training and upgrading. This two-pronged approach, by moderating the demand for foreign workers and raising the capabilities of local workers, will give local workers a significant advantage over foreign workers.
  27. Over the long term, we aim to keep the proportion of foreigners in our workforce to about one-third.
  28. Companies will need to make adjustments, and we help them do so, especially SMEs, through many Government initiatives such as Productivity and Innovation Credit, National Productivity Fund, etc.
  29. One initiative has been the SME- Productivity Roadmap, or SME-PRO in short.
  30. One of the key initiatives under SME-PRO is the Productivity Management Programme, or PMP, which was rolled out at the 5 Enterprise Development Centres (EDC).
  31. To date, more than 470 companies have received productivity advice from the EDCs, and over 140 enterprises have benefited from the IMPACT Assessment tool.
  32. One such enterprise that has benefited from the PMP is Warburg Vending Pte Ltd, a provider of food and beverage vending solutions.
  33. With guidance and assistance from the EDCs, Warburg Vending was able to automate and computerise key processes for greater productivity and time savings.
  34. For example, the automation of the coin sorting system has translated to a 63% improvement in turnaround time for coins exchanged, from eight hours to three hours.
  35. We will also invest in CET infrastructure.
  36. We announced earlier that we are building two national CET campuses.
  37. When ready in 2013, the two campuses will offer exciting opportunities for training and upgrading as well as comprehensive career services.
  38. They will deliver 150,000 training places and train up to 50,000 workers annually. CET services at these two campuses will be more accessible and integrated.
  39. Our workers will benefit from the enhanced training and upgrading opportunities available.
  40. Our employers will benefit from the one-stop training centre for their coporate training needs. having higher skilled employees.
  41. We have been working on the designs of the two campuses over the last few months, taking inputs from tripartite partners.
  42. I am pleased to unveil the winning designs today. The next video will give you a glimpse of what two new CET campuses will offer.

    "Progressive Workplace" for all Singaporeans
  43. With a productive workforce, we also have to nurture a Progressive workplace where workers enjoy harmonious industrial relations. They can benefit from progressive, fair and responsible employment practices. They can also benefit from outstanding, excellent workplace safety and health outcomes.

    Tripartism is the cornerstone of harmonious labour relations
  44. Strong tripartism is the cornerstone of harmonious labour relations. It allows us to attract good investments and create good jobs.
  45. Our tripartite partners play a key role in nurturing a progressive workplace.
  46. For example, the Tripartite Committee on Work-Life Strategy to drive the promotion of work-life harmony in Singapore.
  47. The Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) was also formed in 2006 to promote fair and responsible employment practices.
  48. We introduced earlier this year the tripartite employment dispute resolution mechanism for PMEs.
  49. We must not take tripartite partnership for granted. It has taken us decades to build the trust and confidence.
  50. We must continue to build relationship and network at all levels, and not just at the top.
  51. This way, we can discuss frankly and address issues that affect both workers and employers.

    A Safe Workplace
  52. The Workplace Safety and Health Act has just been amended to cover all workplaces to provide safety for our workers across the country.
  53. My Ministry and the Workplace Safety and Health Council have stepped up our efforts to educate stakeholders in the new sectors on their roles and responsibilities under the Act and what they can do to help improve WSH standards and outcomes at the workplace.
  54. Some of you may have seen the advertisements at our MRT stations or bus stops featuring everyday risks at work such as slips, trips and falls.
  55. To help companies, a guidebook on managing these common hazards has been published and distributed to employers in these sectors.
  56. Several sessions of WSH Clinic were also held, where employers receive free advice from WSH professionals on managing WSH risks at their workplaces. More than 800 employers have sought advice at these clinics.
  57. We will continue with these educational efforts and the National WSH Campaign 2011 would be launched later this week.

    "Inclusive Growth for All"
  58. With a productive workforce and a progressive workplace, we must ensure inclusive economic growth that will benefit everyone.
  59. We are particularly concerned about low income, low skilled and older workers who may face a greater challenge in keeping up.
  60. We have two key programmes to help them: Workfare and Re-employment.

    Workfare is the best solution for LWWs
  61. For low-wage workers, Workfare is the best solution that will give them the best chance to progress and succeed.
  62. We encourage low wage workers to work and upgrade their skills through the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) and Workfare Training Support (WTS) Schemes.
  63. Through WIS, we top up the wages and CPF savings of older low-wage workers who continue to work regularly.
  64. Through WTS, we provide additional financial assistance and incentive to encourage them to go for and complete training, and also to encourage their employers to send them for training and upgrading
  65. 38-year-old Ms Jamnah Binte Hamzah is one such worker who has benefited from Workfare.
  66. Prior to 2009, she used to work in both the manufacturing and retail sectors and received more than $1,200 in WIS payments in 2008 and 2009.
  67. In 2009, Ms Jamnah went for upgrading and training in the security WSQ modules, which enabled her to switch to the security industry.
  68. In October 2010, she was hired by Metropolis Security Systems Pte Ltd as a Security Officer.
  69. But she did not stop there, she felt that there was still a gap in her skills that will allow her to become more effective in handling security incidents. She then took it upon herself to sign up and complete the "Supervise Security Officer" module under the Advanced Certificate in Security Supervision.
  70. Being eligible for WTS, she enjoyed a highly subsidised rate of 95% for her course. This translates to more than $1,000 in course fee subsidy and she only paid $53.50 to upgrade.
  71. With her skills upgrading, she was promoted to Security Supervisor in March 2011 and enjoyed a salary increase of $350.
  72. Now, she is earning an average monthly income of $1,800.
  73. Through constant upgrading and training support from the WTS, I am pleased to say that Ms Jamnah is now no longer a low-wage worker.
  74. I am heartened to see more and more low-wage workers, like Ms Jamnah, are taking upon themselves the responsibility to pursue further training and upgrading for their own benefit.
  75. A total of 400,000 workers will benefit from Workfare.
  76. Now with the 3-year Workfare Special Bonus, the first payment for which will be made next month, there is now even more reason for workers to continue working and upgrading.
  77. I urge all workers to do so for a better tomorrow 让明天会更好.

    Older Workers – Retirement Adequacy
  78. Singapore faces a twin challenge of declining birth rates and an ageing population. Therefore, we need to take a holistic approach in addressing the challenges faced by older workers.
  79. As announced during the Budget speech, by September this year, employers' CPF contribution rate will be raised by another 0.5 percentage point to 16%.
  80. The current CPF salary ceiling will also be raised to $5,000. These measures will help CPF members build up their savings faster.
  81. But the best way to help them is to create more opportunities for them to continue working if they wish.
  82. The Retirement & Re-employment Act (RRA) will take effect in January 2012, allowing older workers to be re-employed at age 62 and continue working and save more for their retirement.
  83. We also want to make it easier for employers to retain and re-employ their older workers.
  84. Companies can tap on various assistance schemes such as ADVANTAGE! and the new ACCELERETE Programme to put in place processes for implementing re-employment and send their older workers for upgrading or implement jobs-redesign projects to enhance their older workers’'employability and productivity.
  85. The Government will also provide employers with a one-off Special Employment Credit (SEC) to lower the cost of hiring older workers. SEC will eventually benefit the older workers by lowering the cost of hiring them.
  86. In our Ministry, we also walk the talk.
  87. We have several older colleagues who are still working with us and making valued contributions through their experience and expertise.
  88. One of them is Mr Toh Tuck Yan, who is 64 this year. He is here with us today.
  89. Tuck Yan is a Senior Workplace Safety and Health Inspector and has been with MOM for 38 years.
  90. He has been re-employed since 2009 and continues to conduct inspections and supervision to prevent workplace accidents.
  91. Tuck Yan, thank you for allowing the Ministry to tap on your expertise, as well as sharing your wealth of experience by showing our younger colleagues how to learn the ropes.

    Conclusion and Tribute to Tripartite Partners
  92. Friends, to round up my Address today, let me thank our partners, who have made our achievements possible.
  93. As the Chinese proverb goes, "唇齿相依", without you our partners, we would not have been able to reach out and help so many workers, companies and Singaporeans.
  94. But, the bad news is, the job is not done yet.
  95. In the next phase of this ongoing journey – as we strive towards a Productive Workforce, Progessive Workplace and Inclusive Growth – we should build on our strong tripartite foundation and stand hand-in-hand with all our partners, to raise productivity and achieve inclusive growth for all.
  96. Together, we can tackle the challenges ahead, help every enterprise transform, and help every worker be more productive, give them better workplaces to work in, and enable every Singaporean to benefit from Singapore's growth.
  97. Thank you.