Speech by Mr Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower, Republic of Singapore at the International Labour Organisation 15th Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting, 6 December 2011, 1pm (SG Time), Kyoto, Japan
- Mr. Chairman, on behalf of the Singapore delegation, I would like to congratulate you on your election as chair for the 15th Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting. We would also like to thank the Japanese government for the hospitality extended to us, and the Director-General for his report on Building a Sustainable Future with Decent Work.
Globalisation's impact on Singapore
- As an open economy, Singapore is particularly vulnerable to the forces of globalization. The 2008/2009 downturn caused the sharpest recession in our history. To manage the downturn, the tripartite partners comprising the National Trades Union Congress, Singapore National Employers Federation and the Singapore Government, jointly formulated measures to help companies reduce costs and save jobs by sending workers for training instead of laying them off. This enabled companies to maintain their production capacity and ride the upturn in 2010 to post a strong recovery.
- The Government also closely consulted with tripartite partners on growth strategies to enhance business competitiveness and workers' well-being in the long run. In the next ten years, we will focus more on achieving sustainable and inclusive economic growth led by productivity improvements, and the creation of good jobs. To support this, we have enhanced our investments in training for workers at all levels, and also the incentives for companies to lead in improving productivity. We have also provided special support to help low-wage workers upgrade their skills, so that they can access more job opportunities.
- Today, there are again dark clouds on the horizon. The WTO recently revised its forecast for world export growth in 2011 downward to 5.8 percent1. Singapore's economic growth is expected to slow, from a forecast of 5 percent this year, to between 1 to 3 percent2 in 2012. The tripartite partners will need to continue to work together to weather these challenges.
Changing workforce demographics
- While we respond to the forces of globalisation, Singapore also faces internal challenges. Our workforce is living longer and healthier. Yet Singapore's statutory minimum retirement age remains at 62. To enable older workers to continue to contribute their valuable experience and expertise, Singapore decided in 2007 to implement a law which allows employers to retain older workers beyond 62 through re-employment. Tripartite efforts to prepare employers and workers for this law have proven useful: statistics show that 94 percent of employees continued working past age 62 in 20103. We are confident that when the law comes into effect in 2012, older workers will be able to continue contributing to their companies while earning a regular income to better prepare for their retirement.
- The needs of the Singapore workforce are also changing. According to a survey by Ernst & Young4, work-life balance ranked as the top driver for workplace motivation, above remuneration. This suggests that progressive employment practices such as work-life practices are important for employers to better attract, retain and motivate their employees, who could then make greater contributions. In this regard, Singapore has set up a tripartite committee to promote work-life practices, which I chair. The goal is to help workers manage their personal and family responsibilities alongside work commitments. In 2010, 35 percent of establishments in Singapore offered such practices, up from 25 percent in 20075.
- The macroeconomic environment facing us is uncertain. We need to ensure that we constantly adapt our policies to meet the needs of the shifting economic landscape. In this respect, Singapore has gained much from fruitful cooperative activities with our ASEAN colleagues and the ILO. Earlier this year, my Ministry enhanced our cooperation with the ILO by signing a partnership agreement to improve workplace practices in ASEAN. We look forward to benefiting from more sharing of experiences, so that we could better tackle the common issues we face in our journeys to achieve sustainable growth.
- We are also pleased to inform the Meeting that in 2010, Singapore ratified the Tripartite Consultation Convention, one of thae ILO's priority Conventions. In addition, we ratified the Maritime Labour Convention this year. In this regard, Singapore would like to register our appreciation for the ILO's advice and support.
- Before I end, I would like to commend the Japanese Government on a very well-organised Meeting, despite difficulties due to the Tohoku earthquake.
- Mr. Chairman, the Singapore delegation looks forward to more fruitful discussions on the agenda items. I am confident that under your able leadership, the 15th Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting will be a successful one. Thank you.
1 Source: WTO report on recent trade developments "Lamy calls for trade opening to continue as global economic outlook worsens", 21 November 2011.
2 Source: Ministry of Trade and Industry Singapore press release "MTI forecasts growth of 5.0 per cent in 2011 and 1.0 to 3.0 per cent in 2012", 21 November 2011
3 Source: Ministry of Manpower press release on "Retirement and re-employment practices, 2010", 22 July 2011.
4 Source: Channel News Asia article on "Work-life balance more important than salary: survey", 22 November 2011
5 Source: Ministry of Manpower press release on "Flexible work arrangements help companies facing manpower crunch", 25 August 2011.