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Speech at the 105th International Labour Conference

Minister Lim Swee Say, Geneva, Switzerland

Conference Chair, Distinguished delegates,

  1. In his ILO report, Director-General Guy Ryder has called for all nations to “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”.
  2. Singapore fully supports this goal.
  3. Nation building is a journey with no end.
  4. To keep improving the lives of our workers and people, we have to keep re-inventing our economy and re-developing our workforce.
  5. Technology has always been a key driving force of global change.
  6. From the way we work, to the way we live.
  7. It is everywhere affecting everyone.
  8. But we recognise that technology is neutral – Good for those who know how to embrace it for their advantage. Bad for those who stay away from it to their own disadvantage.
  9. The choice is for each nation to make.
  10. For Singapore, the choice is clear. Our vision is to become a “Smart Nation”. We want to embrace technology and innovation as our partner in sustainable and inclusive growth.
  11. Instead of fearing that technology may displace our workers, we challenge ourselves to adapt and grow with technology, from robotisation of factories to digitisation of services.
  12. Creating meaningful employment for all our people has always been our top priority.  
  13. Today, our unemployment rate is still low, employment rate is still high, wage increase is still healthy.
  14. However, we cannot take this for granted.
  15. Our workforce is aging. We are extending our re-employment age from 65 today, to 67 next year.
  16. To ensure that our workplaces become more age friendly, industry has to make better use of technology to make our jobs easier, safer and smarter for our older workers.
  17. Our population growth is slowing.
  18. To encourage procreation, we have to ensure that our workplaces become more family-friendly.
  19. Again with better use of technology, we can offer more flexible work arrangements: flexi-hour, flexi-location and flexi-workload.
  20. Our workforce today is inclusive and we must stay this way.
  21. We must re-create all low wage jobs into better jobs with better pay, in good times or bad.
  22. With the pervasive use of technology, we can make every low wage job a better job, and every less skilled worker a better worker as we strive for decent work for all.
  23. Last but not least, we strive to be early adopters of technology and innovative solutions to transform industries and create new careers so as to meet the higher aspiration of all our workers.
  24. Today, we see promising and growing opportunities in areas such as data analytics, cyber security, “cobot” (co-working of workers with robots), online-to-offline, offline-to-online services.
  25. Tomorrow, there will be even more exciting areas to pursue.
  26. Because the faster the pace of change, the longer the list of future opportunities we will see.    
  27. In closing, our journey towards the Future of Work has started – to create industry of the future, skills of the future, and careers of the future.
  28. I am happy to share that tripartism is at the heart of this national effort in Singapore.
  29. Working together in unity, our tripartite partners are confident that we can collectively harness the power of technology and innovation to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth for the benefits of our workers, our people and all Singapore based businesses.  
  30. The global agenda of the ILO deserves the full support of all nations. Singapore will play its part and make its contribution.
  31. Together with the efforts of all like-minded nations, we can make the ILO’s vision of Future of Work a reality for the workers of the world.
  32. Thank you.