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Speech at 2016 G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting

Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister for Manpower, Beijing, China

Mr Chairman and Ministers,

  1. First of all, I thank the Chinese Presidency for its leadership in championing the G20 Summit Theme of “Towards an Innovative, Invigorated, Interconnected and Inclusive World Economy”.
  2. I also thank the Chinese Presidency for the privilege for Singapore to participate as one of the non-G20 countries. We appreciate your warm hospitality.
  3. Singapore fully supports the emphasis on innovation and inclusive growth and the focus on generating adequate job opportunities, enhancing employability and securing decent work for all.
  4. Global economic growth is uncertain, global unemployment is sticky, youth unemployment is high, structural job-skill mismatch is growing.
  5. These are just some of the challenges facing the global community.
  6. With the rapid advances in technology, there are now tremendous opportunities for us to transform and grow the global economy.
  7. As we set our sights on the future, I would like to touch on three urgent priorities.
  8. First, tradition should not be the enemy of innovation. We need to transform faster today to create new industries, new enterprises, new jobs, new careers so as to realise our vision of an innovation-driven global economy of tomorrow.
  9. On this journey of rapid innovation, there is much we can learn from each other and share with each other.
  10. The more we align our efforts as a global community, the greater the momentum and the faster the pace of change will be for all countries.
  11. Second, innovation-driven growth should not be achieved at the expense of inclusive growth. We have to strive for inclusiveness of man and technology.
  12. To illustrate, robotisation is clearly a sound strategy. It can help improve productivity, strengthen competitiveness and generate profit and growth for businesses.
  13. But if carried to the extreme, robotisation can also potentially lead to large-scale displacement of workers, job loss and jobless growth.
  14. However, rejecting the use of robots is not the right answer either. Instead, we should make the extra effort to redesign our workplaces for robots and workers to work together, partnering each other in an inclusive and mutually reinforcing way.
  15. Some call this the mindset of “cobotisation” – robots and workers working together as co-workers.
  16. By doing it right, we can have the inclusive outcome of getting the most out of the use of technology and at the same time making jobs more skillful, productive and meaningful for the professional, manager, engineer, technician and general workers at large.
  17. This inclusive growth of technology and man should also embrace workers at all skill levels and of all ages, making the jobs of less skilled workers and older workers easier, safer and smarter.
  18. This will bring us another step closer to the vision of decent work for all.
  19. Third, the transformation of industry and jobs must be accompanied by the timely transformation of skills and workforce.
  20. We must equip our workers with the skills of the future so that they can take on the jobs of the future. We must also help them to become more re-skillable and mobile, recognising that lifelong career conversion will become more widespread in the future economy.
  21. These urgent priorities are relevant to all our nations, both G20 and non-G20.
  22. In Singapore today, our unemployment is low, less than 3 per cent. Our employment is high, more than 80 per cent. Our wages are still rising, faster than inflation. However, we are not taking the future for granted. We are doing our best on all three fronts – creating jobs of the future in our economy, nurturing skills of the future in our workforce, and helping our people to pursue careers of the future in all major services and industries.
  23. Our tripartite partners (industry, unions and government agencies) are working together to draw up Industry Transformation Maps, sector by sector, for more than 20 sectors covering more than 80% of our economy.
  24. By visualising our future economy today, we aspire to be an active participant in digital transformation and the 4th Industrial Revolution – from manufacturing to services, from economic growth to social progress.
  25. At the same time, we are stepping up efforts to equip our workers with the skills of the future, from high-tech to high-touch.
  26. Under a nationwide “SkillsFuture” initiative, we aim to inculcate in our people the mindset of lifelong learning, from pre-employment education to in-employment training.
  27. Human capital is and will continue to be our most valuable asset. We are determined to enhance the lifelong employability of our workers, helping our people to adapt and grow, and prevent any potential widening of job-skill mismatches as we move faster into the future.
  28. Chairman and Excellencies, innovation and inclusive growth are two sides of the same coin – the coin of sustainable development.
  29. Without innovation, economic growth will slow.
  30. Without inclusiveness, social cohesion will weaken.
  31. To achieve both, the collective efforts and shared ownership of the tripartite partners (unions, employers and government) must be at the core of national efforts in our respective nations.
  32. Singapore’s tripartism is strong today at the national level. We are making it even more pervasive at the industry level, to drive the transformation of industry and workforce, sector by sector.
  33. Excellencies and ladies and gentlemen, we all have a part to play for the global economy to transform faster and grow better.
  34. We look forward to learning from the views and experiences of countries present at this G20 gathering.
  35. Together, we can transform the global economy to be more innovation-driven, and more inclusive, both at the same time.
  36. Thank you very much.