- On behalf of the Singapore delegation, I would like to thank the Government of Vietnam for their warm hospitality in hosting this Conference, as well as the ASEM coordinators for their hard work and support.
- I would like to share with you Singapore's approach towards youth employment. For a large part of the world, the youth unemployment crisis continues. The ILO estimates in its report on "Global Employment Trends for 2012" that there are nearly 75 million unemployed youths around the world today.
Situation in Singapore
- In Singapore, we are fortunate that youth unemployment is generally a transitional state. On average, only 7.7% of unemployed youths were looking for work for at least 25 weeks in 2011, compared with 20% among all job seekers.
- However, like many other countries, our youth1 unemployment rate is higher than other age groups. In 2011, the annual average unemployment rate for residents aged 15 to 24 was 6.7%, which is higher than the overall unemployment rate of 2.9% for all residents. We are pleased to know that this group of young job seekers in Singapore generally do not experience long unemployment spells.
- As a small island state where people are our only resource, Singapore cannot afford to have a "lost generation" of youths. We are therefore fully committed to nurturing and developing our youth to their fullest potential, and enhancing their employability as they make the transition from school to work. We do this by taking a holistic look at the entire "value chain" of education, employment and employability. Let me share with you the key elements:
Minimising Youth Unemployment
Strong education system
- Singapore's youth employment strategy starts with a strong emphasis on education. Almost all of our young people complete about 10 years of basic education that equips them with broad-based knowledge and life skills. Many go on to institutions of higher learning where they further their education in their chosen fields of study and pick up industry-relevant skills in preparation for entry into the workforce. The higher the level of education and skills that they attain, the more this enhances their employability when they leave the education system.
- But education alone is not enough. It needs to be complemented with good manpower planning policies. Singapore carries out central manpower planning for places in public-funded post-secondary educational institutions. This is to make sure that we have the people with the relevant skills to meet the future needs of industry. It also significantly enhances the employability of our graduates.
- In addition, we also believe that early career planning is important in improving youth employment outcomes. The Singapore government is making labour market information on industry and manpower trends more readily available to young people and their parents, so that they too can better plan for their education and career pathways.
Continuing education and skills upgrading
- While Singapore's pre-employment system prepares the youth for jobs upon completion of studies, it is also essential for young people to continually upgrade their skills to remain relevant as the global economic climate is changing rapidly. The Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) was set up to drive workforce development, with a mission to enhance the employability and competitiveness of the entire workforce through skills upgrading. This agency has established a national system known as the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) that trains, develops, and recognizes individuals for competencies that companies are looking for.
- We actively encourage our young people to be proactive and entrepreneurial in creating their own future job prospects. Young entrepreneurs who harbour hopes of establishing their own businesses may tap on government funding schemes such as the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) which provides support for innovative start-ups. ACE also has an accompanying mentoring scheme to pair the grant recipients with experienced entrepreneurs to guide them through the various aspects of running a business.
- The Singapore government has spared no effort to increase the educational and work opportunities for our youth. But we are also mindful that the global environment we operate in is competitive and volatile. We therefore welcome sharing and learning from international best practices at platforms such as the ASEM LEMC to better tackle the challenges ahead and to help every youth to fulfil their career aspirations.
- Before concluding, I would like to express our appreciation to ASEM countries for actively participating in the two technical projects on occupational safety and health.2 We were honoured to have co-led the workshop on National OSH Strategies with Indonesia; and the OSH Symposium on developing a preventive OSH culture with France and with the support from the European Commission. Both projects were very successful and saw many professionals, business leaders, social partners and government officials exchanging deep insights on OSH trends and developments. Such collaborations are important as we continue to face new and emerging challenges and to focus on accelerating the development of OSH in ASEM.
- Thank you.
Youth is defined as those aged 15 to 24.
(i) ASEM Workshop on National OSH Strategies (with Indonesia) in October 2011; and (ii) ASEM Symposium on developing a preventive OSH culture (with France) in September 2012.