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May Day Message 2012 by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Finance & Minister for Manpower, 26 April 2012


  1. This year's May Day comes at a time of continued difficulties in the world economy. Europe's debt problems are a major worry. The US shows signs of gradual recovery, although high unemployment and housing debt problems are still brakes on its growth. Fortunately, Asia's emerging economies are showing good growth, and providing a lift to our economy.
  2. Our economy will slow down this year. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is projected to moderate to 1% to 3%. However, our labour market is still very tight currently. While jobs are being lost in some industries, overall, many more jobs are being created.
  3. Our main focus therefore is on the longer-term challenge of building a better future for our people. Our tripartite mission is clear. Everything we do is ultimately aimed at achieving inclusive growth – growth which benefits all Singaporean workers.
  4. We must press on with our efforts to restructure Singapore's economy, so that we can grow on the basis of productivity and support higher wages for our workers. Here, our tripartite partnership between workers, employers and the Government plays a key role in engaging companies to innovate and create better jobs, and encouraging workers to upgrade and learn new skills.
  5. The Government is working with our small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) especially, to help them to upgrade their operations and stay competitive in a tight labour market. This year, we have made several enhancements to various initiatives to support SME upgrading. Workers are also being given strong support to upskill, through a wide range of opportunities for Continuing Education and Training (CET).
  6. As tripartite partners, we must give special support to our lower-wage workers and older workers.
  7. To help lower-wage workers, we have put in place the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) and Workfare Training Support (WTS) schemes, which encourage them to find regular work and help them progress through training and skills upgrading. The Inclusive Growth Programme, led by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), also plays a key role, by engaging companies to help them innovate and raise the pay of lower-wage workers. The Ministry of Manpower will be stepping up awareness and enforcement efforts to ensure compliance with the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Act and the Employment Act, so that lower-wage workers receive CPF contributions and statutory employment benefits from their employers.
  8. As many lower-wage workers are employed in industries where outsourcing is common, such as cleaning and security, we are working closely with our tripartite partners to promote best sourcing. Service buyers must outsource responsibly, so that service providers are focused on service quality and productivity, and on improving employment conditions and wages for their workers. As a major service buyer, the Government will lead by example in best sourcing practices, by procuring only from accredited cleaning companies and well-graded security agencies.
  9. Older workers are a valuable and growing segment of the working population. We are doing more to help them stay actively employed, contribute with their experience and skills, and build up their savings for retirement. The Retirement and Re-employment Act (RRA) that came into effect in January this year has been implemented smoothly, following extensive preparations by the tripartite partners. The Government is also giving employers strong incentive to attract and retain older workers, through the Special Employment Credit (SEC) for the next 5 years. We will continue to closely monitor and study the implementation and impact of the RRA and the SEC.
  10. We must at the same time move ahead in developing a strong Singapore core of employees, including amongst professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), in all our industries. We have updated the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices to promote this. Employers must actively look out for local talents, and provide them the necessary exposure, training and career development opportunities.
  11. We have to keep to the right balance. We must stay open to expertise from around the world and enable our companies to have the diverse teams that allow them to remain competitive. That is important for our SMEs as much as it is for our larger companies. This is also how we have grown many more jobs for Singaporeans, and enabled most Singaporeans to do well over the years. But we must at the same time do the utmost to maximize every Singaporean's potential, and develop the local capabilities that give Singapore its sustainable advantage.
  12. We will keep improving the various specific schemes to help our PMEs deepen their skills and career prospects. Last year, we introduced the Skills Training for Excellence Programme (STEP) to better support PMEs' CET needs. This year, we have launched CaliberLink, which provides PMEs with an integrated one-stop service point comprising training, career coaching, career search and recruitment support.
  13. In all that we do, the strong spirit of tripartism among Government, employers and unions is a real strength for Singapore. It helped us overcome challenges during the Global Financial Crisis, and will play a critical role in Singapore’s next phase of development. I look forward to NTUC, the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) and the Government working together as one family as we build an Inclusive Singapore.
  14. Happy May Day to all!