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Singapore Workforce Development Agency (Amendment) Bill 2016, Second Reading Speech at Parliament

Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister for Manpower, Parliament

  1. Madam Speaker, I beg to move, that the Bill be now read a Second time.
  2. We live in a world of greater uncertainty and faster change today.
  3. Last month, I attended the G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting, and the mood was one of concern.
  4. 7 years after the Global Financial Crisis, G20 economic growth is still lower than before the crisis (3.2% per annum versus 4.1% per annum)1. Unemployment at 5.8% has barely fallen from the peak of the crisis of 6%. Labour force participation is also lower than before the crisis. Across the G20 countries, there is said to be a shortfall of 50 million jobs.
  5. Back home, our economy and workforce are in transition too. Our workforce is ageing at one of the fastest rates in the world2. Workforce growth is falling from 4% p.a.3 in the earlier part of the decade, to around 1% p.a. by 2020. Importantly, each generation of Singaporeans is aspiring to do better – with better education4, better jobs and better incomes.
  6. To avoid ending up with the challenges that many countries are now facing – high youth unemployment, sticky unemployment, and declining labour force participation, we must get three things right.
  7. First, we need to quicken the transformation of industry, to make every job a better job. MTI and sector agencies are leading this effort to create the new industries, new businesses, and new jobs of the future.
  8. Second, we will need to quicken the transformation of the workforce, to make every worker a better worker. MOE is leading the effort to inculcate lifelong learning, from pre-employment education to professional and continuing education. SkillsFuture Singapore is the new agency tasked with this.
  9. Mdm Speaker, as we transform the industry and the workforce, it is crucial that we keep the two in sync. If workforce transformation lags behind industry transformation, workers will miss the opportunities for better jobs while businesses will not have the manpower they need. We would end up with higher structural unemployment and an over-reliance on foreign manpower. On the other hand, if industry transformation lags behind workforce transformation, there will be a shortage of quality jobs for our people leading to higher under-employment.
  10. Therefore, the third thing we must do right is to match every better worker to every better job, and make every career a better career for all Singaporeans.
  11. Madam Speaker, Workforce Singapore (or WSG) under MOM, will sharpen its focus and strive to minimise mismatches and maximise matching between jobs and skills, workers and businesses. It will be both pro-worker and pro-business.
  12. Clause 9 and 10 of the Bill provides for the functions and powers of WSG.
  13. I will now outline three key areas WSG will strive to do more and do better for our workers and businesses.
  14. First, for our workers, WSG will not only help individuals find jobs but also help them build careers at all life stages.
  15. Lifelong career conversion will become more widespread in the future economy. Holding a single job or career through life will become less common. The new reality is that workers will need not only to switch between jobs and employers, but also between types of industries and modes of employment, be it traditional or emerging.
  16. Today, WDA, e2i and partners are actively helping jobseekers to find jobs. This will continue under WSG. At the same time, WSG will do more to help them manage their career transitions throughout their lives.
  17. Second, at the workforce level, WSG will strengthen the inclusiveness of our local workforce in the face of disruptive change.
  18. Today, WDA serves many in the workforce, be it young or old workers, PMETs or non-PMETs. It has also built up partnerships to support special worker segments, such as with SG Enable to support the hiring of persons with disabilities, and with SCORE and ISCOS to help ex-offenders return to work. Again, this will continue.
  19. But we recognise that disruptive technology and innovation will bring not just new opportunities, but new threats too, to all groups of workers, including PMETs. If we are not proactive, there is a danger that some will be displaced and made redundant by technology, and our workforce may become less inclusive. WSG will therefore reach out to help every segment of workers to adapt and upgrade with technology, so that we can all benefit and be part of the transformation of our economy and workforce.
  20. Third, at the industry and company level, WSG will help businesses create better quality jobs to attract and build a stronger Singaporean core. This is a key priority for firms as workforce growth will slow and competition for manpower will only become keener.
  21. WSG will support companies to adopt new business models, be more manpower lean, and create progressive workplaces to fully utilise the skills and talent of our workers.
  22. Madam Speaker, moving forward, our workers can expect WSG to be worker-centric, covering all their career stages. So whether you are in your twenties looking for your first job; or in your thirties looking for your next job; or in your forties or fifties looking for your next career; or in your sixties or beyond looking to make your next contribution, WSG can support you.
  23. Industry and businesses can likewise expect WSG to be employer-centric, helping them to develop manpower pipeline, sector by sector. Working in partnership, WSG and the sector agencies and tripartite partners are developing industry manpower plans under the respective Industry Transformation Maps. These plans will articulate the jobs and careers we strive to create in the future, for us to help match workers -- both new job entrants and mid-careerists -- to these jobs and career opportunities.
  24. WSG will also pay attention to SMEs. It will continue to help companies and clusters of firms to become more manpower-lean and innovative, such as through the Lean Enterprise Development Scheme. In addition, it will work with businesses to redesign jobs and improve HR practices so that they can turn their human resources into their human capital.
  25. Last but not least, WSG will leverage new technology and platforms to widen the reach and impact of its services. Beyond physical touch points, WSG will develop new service models, such as e-services and online career fairs, and also provide timely and customised information and career guidance to individuals at different stages of their careers. It will also move towards leveraging data analytics and smart technology to find new ways to optimize matching between jobseekers and employers.

    Closing
  26. Madam Speaker, our economy is at a critical juncture where we face both global economic uncertainty and domestic workforce changes. Our journey of transformation is underway.
  27. Unions, employers and the government are partnering one another through a constructive spirit of trust and mutual alignment to support our workers and businesses.
  28. Partnership will be a key feature in all of WSG’s work. Within the Government, it will partner with economic agencies on industry transformation, and with MOE and SSG on lifelong learning. Across each industry, WSG will work with employers, business chambers and trade associations, and unions to deepen ties and achieve win-win solutions. In employment facilitation, it will partner best-in-class employment agencies to help workers secure better jobs, and technology providers to expand its effectiveness and reach.
  29. But the most important partner will be the workers of Singapore. We need every individual to play his or her part to adapt and grow in this new environment.
  30. With a dedicated agency in WSG and the collective endeavours of all our partners, I am confident that we can do more than before to match the aspirations of our people and the needs of our businesses. Together, we can make sure that the innovation-driven growth of the economy is also inclusive growth for our people.
  31. Madam Speaker, I beg to move.

FOOTNOTE

  1. At about 3.2% per annum over the last 3 years, compared to about 4.1% in the pre-crisis period [average over 7 years].
  2. 12% of the local workforce is age 60 or older today, 10 years ago it was 6%.
  3. Employment change, 2011-2014.
  4. 52% of resident labour force are degree/diploma holders, compared to 39% 10 years ago.