Speech at 23rd ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting
Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Manpower, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar
Your Excellency U Aye Myint, Union Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Security of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, and Chairperson of the 23rd ALMM
Fellow ASEAN Labour Ministers,
Ms Alicia Dela Rosa Bala, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN,
Ladies and Gentleman,
- Good afternoon. On behalf of the Singapore delegation, let me first thank the Government and people of Myanmar for hosting the 23rd ASEAN Labour Ministers’ Meeting (ALMM) and for the generous hospitality that has been extended to us.
Current situation and challenges in Singapore
- Singapore’s economy is projected to grow by between 2% and 4% this year. We expect to continue facing a tight job market amidst strong labour demand. Our challenge remains to create good jobs for our people.
- One way to do this is to balance the interests of employers and employees to ensure a flexible and dynamic labour market that can respond to global competition.
- This is particularly crucial in light of the shifting demographics in Singapore. It is therefore imperative that Singapore addresses critical labour gaps and boosts the quality of our workforce. This includes raising productivity levels, which have unfortunately stagnated in recent years.
- I therefore congratulate the Myanmar Chair for selecting the highly-relevant theme of “Enhancing a Competitive Labour Force for a Harmonious, Progressive and Prosperous Workplace” to advance our discussion on developing the capabilities of our local and regional workforce.
Singapore’s efforts in ensuring a competitive labour force
- On our part, the Singapore Government invests heavily in our people, as well as supports companies in innovation and productivity improvements, to ensure that our workforce remains relevant and competitive. Let me elaborate.
Investing in our people
- The Singapore Government works very closely with industry stakeholders to equip our students with skills relevant to industry needs. This improves their employability. However, given shorter skills cycles and a rapidly changing economic environment, this is actually not enough.
- It is critical that workers also maintain their skills and relevance through continuing education and training (or CET). The Singapore Government provides broad-based support in the form of generous subsidies to help workers upgrade their skills. We have also introduced targeted measures to address the needs of different groups in the workforce, such as (i) the Workfare Training Support scheme to provide more subsidies for lower wage workers to upgrade their skills, and to increase incomes; as well as (ii) career conversion programmes to help the unemployed or retrenched workers re-skill to take on jobs in hiring or growth industries. This includes blue- and white-collar workers.
- At the same time, we are reinforcing efforts to raise productivity at both the individual and business levels. It is not an easy journey, but it is the only sustainable way to ensure wage increases for all workers and boost growth at the same time.
Importance of tripartism
- But we are nevertheless mindful that social and economic resilience can only be realised if there is harmonious industrial relations and progressive workplace practices. This is why strong tripartite relations remain the cornerstone of our economic policies. We are determined to build on the collaborative partnership we have developed between government, unions and businesses.
Way ahead for ASEAN
Building manpower competencies
- ASEAN needs to remain united against global and regional challenges. Having a strong manpower base will not only enhance ASEAN’s attractiveness as an investment destination, but also enable ASEAN to be more responsive to external shocks. In this sense, we all have an important role to play in laying the groundwork for a stronger and more competitive ASEAN.
- As each of our countries benefit and progress, we will also benefit our neighbours. At the national level, we can ensure that multiple avenues are available for job-seekers and workers to have the option of upgrading their skills or picking up new skills.
- At the regional level, we should support businesses in creating good jobs, so that our young can find meaningful employment and contribute in the region. We must avoid the “brain drain” that many other regions are already experiencing. Key to that is economic growth, and to create good jobs to keep our people in this region.
- Singapore is confident that under Myanmar’s able leadership, ASEAN will continue to see good progress in labour cooperation and human resource development.
- Thank you.