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Speech at MOM National Day Observance Ceremony

Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister for Manpower, Lifelong Learning Institute

Sister Diana Chia
President, NTUC

Dr Robert Yap
President, SNEF

Colleagues and friends

Happy National Day

  1. Singapore, our nation, turns 50 this year. As we celebrate our golden Jubilee, a few thoughts come to mind.
  2. My first thought is: We are in a better shape than most other countries.
  3. 50 years ago, we were born a nation without industrial peace, with high unemployment and low employment rates but we were determined to change all that. So, the people, the unions, the businesses and the government worked real hard and real well together. Step by step, from labour intensive to skill intensive, capital intensive, technology intensive and knowledge intensive, we transformed Singapore and the lives of Singaporeans into what it is today.
  4. We achieved the triple distinctions that many countries can only dream of:
    • One of the highest employment rates (79.7%, just second to Japan);
    • One of the lowest unemployment rates (from 10% back then to 2% now);
    • And one of the best records in industrial peace.
  5. The world we live in is never a perfect one. So, we can be proud that our employment situation is among the least imperfect in the world.
  6. My second thought is: The journey ahead will not get any easier, but tougher.
  7. With greater volatility and growing uncertainly in the global economy, there will be more ups and more downs in international trade and global investments.
  8. As an economy with a small and limited domestic market, we will be affected more than others. On top of that, as we progress up the global economic ladder, we will have to compete more and more with countries and cities that are bigger, stronger and hungrier for good investments and good jobs.This is why the economic transition we are now going through is so important. Not just for our businesses to survive and grow, but more importantly, for our people to have better jobs and better careers. We must stay ahead and be more ready for the future - to become more Manpower Lean with a stronger Singaporean Core and better quality of foreign manpower.
  9. My third thought is: The more we have today, the more we stand to lose tomorrow if we are not good enough and fast enough.
  10. Our pioneer and present generations of Singaporeans have created a better Singapore of today from a near hopeless beginning 50 years ago.
  11. Now that we are in a position of so much strength, there is no reason why our present and future generations of Singaporeans cannot create an even better Singapore of tomorrow:
    • One that will create enough good jobs and promising careers for our young, to stay away from the pain of youth unemployment we now see globally;
    • Make our workplace more age friendly for our mature workers to work longer and remain more active;
    • Upgrade the jobs, skills and pay of our low wage workers for them to live better;
    • Strengthen our Singaporean Core and support our Singaporean PMEs in their pursuit of better jobs and better career opportunities;
    • Make our workplaces more pro-family for working parents to take better care of their young children, and working children to take better care of their aged parents;
    • Enhance support for the self- employed and freelancers for them to progress as part of our inclusive workforce.
    Last but not least, make our workplaces safer and healthier for all to go home safely and healthily at the end of every working day and night.
  12. I am confident that this better Singapore is within our reach, if we, together with our fellow Singaporean workers, build on the Singapore Spirit of our pioneer generation.
  13. Some of our Pioneer Generation (PG) colleagues are here today. Rasidah, Siu Moi and Yeen Keng have dedicated over 45 years of their lives to serving the public at MOM, when we were known as the Ministry of Labour. They saw how we have grown as an organisation, and played an integral part in our transformation.
  14. Chor Huang, Betty and Victor have served with passion at CPFB for over 40 years. They helped build a strong social security system that provides a secure retirement, home ownership and affordable healthcare for our people.
  15. Veronica and Julia Gandhi have dedicated themselves to promote and support lifelong learning in Singapore.
  16. To them and all our Pioneer Generation colleagues, I invite all of you to join me in thanking them for their service and dedication. Thank you.
  17. Having joined MOM for three months now, I see for myself how much hardwork, passion and commitment all of you have put into your work. As the former labour chief, I thank you all on behalf of the workers of Singapore.
  18. As we gear up for the future, our responsibility as tripartite partners of Singapore is a heavy one:
    • To create enough jobs for our people to stay away from the pain of unemployment
    • To equip our people with enough skills to remain employable
    • And to create jobs with good enough quality for our people to upgrade and advance in their careers of choice.
  19. Today, I call on all of us in MOM, CPFB, WDA, SLF to keep up with the good efforts, commit ourselves to give our best, help our workers to pursue the jobs of the future, skills of the future and careers of the future. I also call on our tripartite partners at the national and sectoral levels to commit ourselves to work together in full alignment.
  20. Let us make sure that Singapore Tripartism will remain our biggest asset, our greatest strength for a long time to come.
  21. Last but not least, I call on my fellow Singaporeans of all ages and all collars to come together, upgrade, improve, adapt and capture the many opportunities we are creating for you. Working together, we can create a future of:
  22. Better jobs, better careers, better lives for all.
  23. Happy SG50.