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Main speech by Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister for Manpower at Committee of Supply 2017

Minister for Manpower

  1. Madam, I thank the members for their views and suggestions. NTUC Deputy Secretary Heng Chee How and several members have shared that, on the ground, there is growing concern on job opportunities and jobs security. I can understand.
  2. Retrenchment has gone up, the highest since the global financial crisis in 2009.
  3. Unemployment, though low, has gone up too. Resident unemployment rate held steady at about 2.8% for 4 years since 2012 but went up to 3%P last year.
  4. As we transform to take our Singapore economy into the future, some may wonder:
    • “What will the future economy bring us?”
    • “Will more workers be displaced by technology?”
    • “Will more workers be made redundant?”
    • “Will more jobs go to foreigners?”
    • “Will the rise in digital and gig economy change the employment landscape resulting in less employment and more freelancing?”
  5. In short, will we have enough good jobs, or will more workers be hit by unemployment, underemployment and structural unemployment?
  6. Madam, this cannot be the kind of future we want, for our workers, our people, our children. The purpose of us transforming towards the future economy is to improve our jobs, our careers, our lives, not to make them worse.
  7. Of course, there's no guarantee that all economic transformations will be successful, as seen in failures in some countries. But for Singapore, we succeeded time and time again, so far. So, working together, whole of Singapore, we must make sure that we succeed again.
  8. This will not be easy, because to open a door to a future of good jobs and better careers for all our people, we must have four keys in hand.
  9. The first key, is the key of quality job creation. To create enough jobs of good enough quality for everyone – young and old, PMETs and rank-and-file.
  10. Madam, the net growth in our total employment, excluding foreign domestic workers, has slowed significantly. From more than 200,000 a year before the global financial crisis to more than 100,000 a year after the global financial crisis, and to less than 25,000 in 2015 and less than 10,000P last year.
  11. There are two reasons for this. Externally, due to business uncertainty, companies are hiring less. The recruitment rate for companies with 25 and more employees has come down. From 2.8 new employees per 100 existing employees in 2012, to about 2.2 last year.
  12. More importantly, internally, our local workforce growth has slowed quite significantly. With aging and low birth rates, coupled with already high labour force participation rates, local workforce growth is heading for stagnation over the next 10 years.
  13. Slowdown in hiring is cyclical. It will pick up again if business sentiment improves. But slowdown in our local workforce growth is structural. Our local workforce growth will never go back to the high growth of 2%, 3%, 4% of the past. Hence if we try to bring employment growth back to 100,000 a year, we will need to bring in many more foreign workers. And if we take in 50,000 more a year, this would mean 500,000 over 10 years. Higher economic gains will come with even higher social costs. This is not what we want.
  14. We have little choice but to learn to how to grow our economy with a workforce growth of about 1% from now on. This means about 33,000 net increase in total employment a year. There will be fluctuation from year to year – some years less at 25,000, some years more at 40,000. So 25,000 to 40,000 – I think this range should be achievable.
  15. But even so, we will still be faced with the challenge of rising underemployment. This will happen when the improvement in job quality, not just new jobs but even our existing jobs, is not able to keep pace with improvement in the education and skill profile of our local workforce.
  16. So far the overall quality of our local employment has been improving. The proportion of PMET jobs has increased from 49% in 2007 to 55% last year.
  17. As we help every worker to upgrade to become a better worker, we need to make every job a better job, every career a better career.
  18. Will we succeed? I believe we can, but only if we look at technology not as our competitor for jobs, but as our partner in the creation of jobs, quality jobs.
  19. Madam, technology is the main driving force of future growth, globally. We can either use it to our advantage or allow our competitors to use it to our disadvantage. The choice is clear.
  20. To be on the winning side, we need to keep crossing the technology gate. Better and faster than the competition, so that we will not end up in the black hole of global competition.
  21. However, with so many innovations out there, crossing the first gate of technology is essential, but will not be enough.
  22. There is still a second gate to cross – the market gate. To compete successfully for customers and build market share. Those who fail, again, will end up in the black hole of global competition.
  23. To cross the two gates we have been building our bridge of innovation. Our next challenge is to make this bridge of innovation, longer, stronger and wider, so that many more can get through. As individual companies, as clusters of industries and as one future economy. And not just the pioneers, not just the early adopters, but the early majority and, eventually, the late majority as well.
  24. Some may wonder, the more we strengthen the bridge of innovation, will technology take even more jobs from us?
  25. Craftmark is the distributor and retailer of over 20 brands of footwear and leather goods and accessories. With the use of RFID it cuts down man-hours for stock-taking by 90%. Workers are redeployed to serve customers better. As a result, they achieve not just better business for the owners, but also better jobs for the workers. So for the keywords for MOM are “better jobs”.
  26. The Soup Spoon is a popular restaurant chain with more than 20 outlets. To expand overseas, the company decided to move from food retail to include food manufacturing as well. With an automated packaging process, the operation is not only competitive, but also 25% more manpower-lean. So the keywords for MOM are “manpower-lean”.
  27. Tiong Seng is a market leader in construction. To maximise the impact of using the technology known as Building Information Modeling (BIM), the company helps all its sub-contractors to adopt the same technology. As a result, they improve productivity not just within the company, but across the entire value chain, by 35%. So the keys words for MOM are “productivity gains”.
  28. Madam, these companies show us that the real threat we face in the competition of jobs is not technology, but global competition. So instead of worrying about technology taking away our jobs, we should focus more on how to partner with technology.
  29. This is why over a year ago, MOM initiated the Lean Enterprise Development Scheme (LEDS) to bring various agencies together to provide a one-stop service.
  30. Making it easier for SMEs to develop business capability, manpower and markets. Where necessary, MOM is prepared to allow short term flexibility on foreign manpower quota to help make changes happen faster.
  31. Mr Chong Kee Hiong and Miss Jessica Tan asked about the progress of LEDS.
  32. Madam, the progress of LEDS is encouraging, supported by many agencies – SPRING, WSG, IMDA, BCA, STB, EDB and NTUC e2i. More than 2000 companies, mostly SMEs, across 18 sectors, have responded to LEDS. Among them, are the three I cited earlier.
  33. This year we will go three steps further. First, we will strengthen the scope of LEDS. With the new schemes introduced this year, our agency partners will help more SMEs to go digital as well as expand overseas.
  34. Second, we will speed up the development and the deployment of what we call "cluster" solutions, and promote their widespread adoption not just by individual companies, but by clusters of companies in a cheaper, better and faster way.
  35. Third, we will work closely with sectors that are facing and will continue to face manpower shortage, due to aging of their existing workforce or growing demand for labour. We will partner them to redesign their workflow, to be more manpower lean and to offer jobs and careers of better quality, so they can compete better for local manpower to support their growth.
  36. One example is lift technicians. We need 1,000 more lift technicians over the next 3 years to support BCA and the industry, to upgrade existing workers and to attract more locals to strengthen our Singaporean Core. My colleague MOS Teo will speak more on the key thrusts of our Transform and Grow efforts.
  37. Madam, the first key in creating quality jobs can help us prevent rising unemployment and underemployment. But we still face the risk of rising employment of the third kind, which is structural unemployment – the result of mismatches in the labour market.
  38. We therefore need a second key – the key of workforce adaptability.
  39. We must help our people to adapt to change, take on better jobs - both new and existing jobs - and build new careers that we are creating for them in the future economy.
  40. Last year, WSG, together with NTUC e2i, SNEF and our tripartite partners, helped more than 20,000 jobseekers to secure jobs. This is an increase of about 15%. The profile of jobseekers we assisted is inclusive:
  41. We helped the young and old – about 30% were above age 50 and, as Mr Daniel Goh may be pleased to note, about 45% were in their 20’s and 30’s.
  42. We helped workers who were employed, unemployed and long-term unemployed (LTU). Among the unemployed jobseekers, about 40% of them who found jobs last year were LTU.
  43. The split between the PMETs and rank-and-file was about 50-50. It is a good mix.
  44. The majority of job seekers are what we call "missed" match cases. They are ready for jobs, and the jobs are suitable for them. They just have yet to find each other.
  45. So we help them to plan their careers, search for jobs and prepare CVs for interviews. More than 16,000 "missed" match workers found jobs successfully.
  46. To help more jobseekers and employers find each other, we will make better use of technology to improve the user friendliness of the National Jobs Bank, and to provide better search functions. I recall there was feedback given by Associate Professor Randolph Tan on this last year.
  47. Jobseekers are also better updated of their application status, a point raised by Mr Patrick Tay. As we have not mandated that employers and job seekers inform us on successful job placement, I do not have the statistics that Mr Faisal Manap asked for. The National Jobs Bank is a place for employers and jobseekers to find each other. WSG and the MOM are not in the loop; we provide the platform for them to find each other.
  48. We have also piloted virtual career fairs which are longer in duration than physical job fairs. They are also easier to access. Feedback has been positive. So the next big move is to transform the entire National Jobs Bank into a one-stop, non-stop online marketplace. It will enable various groups of jobseekers to search for the type of jobs they are looking for. For example, first jobs for the young graduates, next jobs for the mid-career workers and next careers for those changing professions.
  49. We will also link up the online marketplace with the Individual Learning Portfolio portal to be launched by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), so that we can provide seamless access between the two, from skills to jobs and from jobs to skills. I think this was suggested by Mr Patrick Tay as well as Mr Desmond Choo during the budget debate.
  50. These major enhancements will be rolled out progressively this year. We will keep enhancing the online marketplace, including the useful suggestions by Mr Patrick Tay.
  51. Besides using technology to widen our reach to more jobs and jobseekers, we will also expand the channels for job matching services through closer collaboration with private sector employment agencies.
  52. Having explored with leading employment agencies local and overseas, we are now ready to partner two leading employment agencies who have been working with government agencies in UK and Australia.
  53. They were selected because of their business focus on active job seekers. These are the workers who are actively looking for jobs, in contrast to passive job seekers. We will partner them, to help place PMETs who are made redundant, and those who are unemployed for 3 months and more. We will launch this new partnership in the second quarter of this year.
  54. Madam, as we gear up to serve more of these “missed match” cases, we will also do more to reduce mismatches in our job market. Last year, the number of “missed match” cases increased from 14,500 to about 16,000, an increase of about 10%. However, the number of mismatch cases has increased even faster, from 3,000 to almost 5,000, an increase of more than 60%.
  55. Even though the current split between “missed matches” and mismatches is about 75-25, we expect to see a continued shift towards more mismatches in the future.
  56. Madam, I share the concerns of Mr Patrick Tay, Miss Jessica Tan, Dr Intan, Mr Lee Yi Shyaan, Mr Desmond Choo and Associate Professor Faishal Ibrahim. Structural unemployment is sticky and harder to solve. So it is better that we act faster and act more proactively. Last year at COS, we introduced the Adapt and Grow initiative to help PMETs who need extra help in overcoming these "missed matches”.
  57. This year, we are enhancing the Adapt and Grow initiative. Let me explain why. As we support businesses to transform and grow faster, more old jobs will be destroyed, more new jobs will be created, and more existing jobs will be re-created.
  58. These are the implications for our workers. In the past, we strived for lifelong employment for our workers. One career, one employer for life. Today, with keener and stronger competition, instead of lifelong employment – one career, one employer for life – we now have lifelong career. One career, but with many employers through our working life. In the future, Lifelong Career will give way to what I call lifelong re-employability. This means not just many employers, but also many careers in our lifetime.
  59. Each time we move from one career to another career, we will have to learn new skills and adapt to new environment to regain our employability, time and time again. Therefore, we can expect to see more PMET jobseekers facing 3 growing mismatches – job mismatch, skill mismatch and wage mismatch.
  60. First, job mismatch. Last year, we launched 36 new Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs) to help more than 1,000 PMETs switch careers, and to take on job openings in these sectors that are still growing and hiring.
  61. One of the new PCPs is for data analytics. One company was moving into smart manufacturing, and created new roles, such as data analysts. But at the same time, some of the existing jobs and staff were at risk of being let go.
  62. Instead of retrenchment, WSG, the company and a training provider worked together to retrain redundant workers, who are mostly more than 40 years old. By building on their domain expertise, they are now leading projects, using their new skills, in data analytics.
  63. With professional conversion, these PMETs have moved into an emerging area with potential for career growth. In fact they can look forward to becoming data scientists and programme managers one day.
  64. Madam, currently, the majority of the jobs offered by employers for PCPs are entry-level positions. I think it is a point that many members have raised. Mr Chong Kee Hiong may be pleased to know that not all PCP participants wait until they are unemployed before they join the PCP. In fact, about half, or maybe even more than half, of them were still in employment. I believe they are what the Secretary General of NTUC called “tomorrow’s unemployed”.
  65. These PCP participants were actually in employment yet they decided to take up PCP to convert to a new profession. Why? Because they looked at where they are today and felt they could be at risk of being retrenched in the future. By enrolling in the PCP, the new career may offer better career prospects.
  66. I want to assure this house, that the PCP participants we are targeting are both retrenched and redundant workers of today, as well as redundant workers of tomorrow, to help them take on careers of the future. This is a concern raised by Mr Patrick Tay, Dr Intan, Mr Chong Kee Hiong, and Associate Professor Faishal Ibrahim.
  67. To encourage employers to offer more PCP jobs at mid-level, we will raise the salary support caps, from $2,000 currently, to $4,000. Since we support 70% of the wages, the $4,000 support will be able to provide for PCP jobs with salaries of up to $5,700. Employers pay $1,700, we pay $4,000. Together, we fund jobs of up to $5,700.
  68. Mature PMETs who are more than 40 years old, or LTU of more than 6 months, will continue to receive higher support with an increase from $4,000 to $6,000. For this cohort, the wage support is 90%. At $6,000, we are able to support PCP jobs for up to $6,700.
  69. With these enhancements, for a PCP with a 6-month conversion period. We are able to support up to $24,000 worth of salary.
  70. For mature PMETs, or those who are LTU, salary support can be up to $36,000. This is on top of training subsidies of an average of $9,000 for a 6-month PCP.
  71. Madam, the second mismatch is skills mismatch. To equip PMETs with new skills needed for the future and ensure that they are able to put their new skills to good use, we have adopted a “Place-and-Train” or “place first, train later” approach for the PCP. This has worked well up till now.
  72. Now we face a new bottleneck. As mentioned earlier, during this period of economic transition the pace of hiring is slower. So even though there is this demand for manpower to meet future needs, companies in some sectors are holding back on hiring due to business uncertainty, in the immediate term. This poses a problem, for both jobseekers and employers. Because training for conversion takes time, precious time is wasted if we have to wait for employers to be ready to hire before skills conversion begins. Associate Professor Randolph Tan echoed this point.
  73. To overcome this, we will introduce “Attach-and-Train” to convert PMETs ahead of job placement. To answer one point made by Professor Randolph Tan, "Attach-and-Train" is not at targeted companies, but at industries. So, in other words, we do not choose companies to support; but we choose industries to train these PMETs in, ahead of job placement, for the industries.
  74. Miss Thanaletchimi asked about payment for trainees on “Attach-and-Train”. We will provide them with training allowances, which are about 50% to 70% of prevailing salaries, for the jobs they are being trained for. This will be capped at $4,000 per month, in lieu of a salary grant we pay to employers. Since the company is not an employer, we don't pay wage support; but instead, we pay these training allowances to the PCP trainees.
  75. To lower the risk of non-placement, trainees are attached to companies as an integral part of the conversion process. So in other words, they don't just attend classroom training, they have to be attached to companies to learn to work in a real-life environment. This is to familiarise them with their new jobs and new workplace. So that they will be more job ready, when companies are ready to hire them.
  76. To minimise potential abuse by employers, we will select a few sectors to start with, and manage the programme closely with our industry partners. It is not a programme for all sectors, only for selected sectors.
  77. How do we go about selecting these sectors? The criteria are: the outlook of sector growth must be promising; industry leaders must be committed to help select and place trainees and rally the support of industry members. They must also be committed to jointly spearhead industry transformation and manpower development for their own sectors.
  78. Mr Chong Kee Hiong and Miss Jessica Tan asked which sectors we will pilot the “Attach-and-Train”. We are looking at the logistics sector because it is one of the key growth sectors identified by the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE). At the same time, the sector has in place a professional conversion facility, known as SCALA.
  79. And interest from PMETs is high. In fact, when SCALA conducted their first PCP course, they had 80 training places but they received 250 applicants. But at that time, there were only 43 jobs from 14 companies and as a result, 37 PCP places were wasted. With the introduction of Attach and Train, more PMETs will be able to participate in future courses. They will be trained, attached to potential employers and this will help them to be more job ready when companies are ready to hire them.
  80. Ms Jessica asked about the progress of the various Sectoral Manpower Plans (SMPs) and how they might support the respective Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs). Madam, to meet the manpower needs of the industry and employment needs of our workers, we define each individual ITM’s skills framework by the jobs, career paths, and skill requirements needed. We follow up with our industry partners with programmes such as the PCP, Career Support Programme (CSP), career fairs, and the “Attach-and-Train” programme with the logistic industry announced today. More will be done as and when ITMs are launched.
  81. Miss Cheng Li Hui asked about support for SMEs and the various sectors such as construction. Yes, we will do the same. Other potential industries for the “Attach-and-Train” programme include Infocomm – we are looking at maybe IT system administrators, as apparently there is a shortage of them; healthcare, in consultation with MOH; and Biologics, a new growth sector in manufacturing. We will also partner with NTUC to help more workers to migrate into future growth sectors.
  82. Third, wage mismatch. To encourage employers to hire mid-career PMETs, we provide wage support through CSP. Associate Professor Randolph Tan asked why the need to subsidise wages.
  83. Madam, these mature PMETs may have the expertise and experience, but the match may not be 100%. By reducing the wage cut for the affected PMETs and reducing wage costs for the employers during the transitional period, for up to 1 year, we hope to match more of them. Both sides can know each other better so that they can continue employment, without our wage support, after the transitional period.
  84. Miss Sim Lay Koon was previously a finance manager. She left her job in mid 2015 due to job misfit. Her job search took longer than expected, so she took an ACCA certification while looking for a job. Finally she came to NTUC e2i. Through the CSP, her new employer was prepared to give her a chance and to try her out in a role which is slightly bigger, slightly different from what she used to perform in her previous job.
  85. Now Miss Sim is a Senior Accounts Associate doing accounting for SME clients. From doing accounts for her own company, she now does accounts for SME clients, something different. Through the support of CSP, both sides were prepared to have a go, and things worked out well. In fact, the new employer is so supportive of her that she is granted half day time-off every week to complete her final ACCA module.
  86. Mr Chong Kee Hiong asked about progress in CSP. Madam, so far, more than 300 have benefitted from the programme.
  87. To help more PMETs affected by redundancy, especially those who are LTU, as raised by Dr Intan and Mr Patrick Tay, we will enhance our support for three groups of PMETs.
  88. First, there are the mature PMETs who are unemployed and been actively looking for jobs for more than one year. They are not just LTU, in fact they are longer-term unemployed. Employers will receive higher wage support for a longer duration, up from 12 months to 18 months – 50% wage support for the first 6 months, 30% for the second 6 months, and 20% for the last 6 months. The total wage support can be as high as $42,000 over 18 months for the employers.
  89. Second, PMETs aged 40 to 49 who are made redundant or unemployed for 6 months, will now get the same level of support as those PMETs aged 50 and above. Currently, those aged 40 to 49 receive a lower level of support compared to those who are aged 50 and above. The two groups have been combined. Now those aged 40 to 49 will receive the same level of support as those who are more than 50 years old. What this means is, we will double our wage support for this group, the 40 to 49s. So, in the first 6 months, we will increase the support from 20% today to 40%; for the next 6 months from 10% today to 20%. In total, we will provide up to $25,200 of wage support over 1 year, for the employer.
  90. Third, we will extend CSP to all PMETs who are unemployed for 6 months or more, regardless of their age or whether they were made redundant. Younger PMETs who are in their 20's and 30's can now receive 20% for the first 6 months and 10% wage support for the second 6 months, for a total amount of wage support of up to $12,600. As long as they are LTU, they will qualify for the CSP.
  91. We will also enhance CSP to help match more PMETs to SMEs, a concern expressed by Ms Cheng Li Hui. Currently, the qualifying salary for CSP is set at $4,000. Feedback from SMEs is that some may not be able to meet this qualifying salary, especially during this period of weaker growth. We will lower the salary threshold for SMEs from $4,000 to $3,600. I want to emphasise that this is not to depress wages for PMETs, but to increase job opportunities, especially for the younger PMETS who are LTU.
  92. We will also allow the hiring of PMETs for overseas job assignments, as long as the employees meet the criteria for CSP.
  93. Madam, we are also enhancing support for rank and file workers facing job expectations mismatch. For those having difficulties finding jobs, we believe it is useful for them to try out the jobs and the employers before taking up the jobs. Likewise, employers want to try out the jobseekers too, before they are ready to offer employment.
  94. For example, SDB Solutions is a company that specializes in digitising and archiving hard copy documents. The work requires workers to be patient, precise and attentive to details. The company has found it challenging to find workers of the right fit. Under the Work Trial programme, five jobseekers were tried out for 2 weeks. Three of them decided to continue with the job.
  95. One of them is Heidi. She stopped work 11 years ago to raise her children and she was not sure whether she could do the job. After two weeks of her Work Trial, it turned out to be a good fit. In fact, SDB Solutions, the company, is so happy, they are now offering three more Work Trial places under the programme.
  96. Dr Intan will be happy to note that to help more LTU rank and file workers, especially the lower skilled and lower wage workers, go back to work, we have decided to extend the current 80 hours, or 2 weeks of Work Trial, to as long as 3 months with allowances of up to $1,200 per month. During or at the end of Work Trial, if the employers offer employment to these rank and file workers who have been unemployed for more than 1 year, we will provide wage support of 30%, capped at $600 per month, for first 6 months of employment. In other words, those who are unemployed, LTU for 1 year or more, we put them on a Work Trial and we support them for up to 3 months. At the end or during the attachment, if the employer offers him or her employment, we will subsidise the wages by 30%, up to $600 per month, for the first 6 months.
  97. The whole purpose is to help as many of our LTU workers to go back to work and hopefully, stay on the job. Now these workers will also get an additional incentive payment of $1,000 for staying in their jobs for at least 6 months. To support inclusiveness at our workplaces, this enhanced Work Trial will also support Persons With Disabilities.
  98. Madam, we will also support the Returnship Programme proposed by NTUC and Mr Desmond Choo. We will partner NTUC to tap on the various support schemes under Adapt & Grow to support this Returnship Programme.
  99. Madam, I wish to emphasise that the key factor determining the success of Adapt & Grow is, in fact, not about how much money we put in to help our jobseekers and employers. But rather, it depends on how much our jobseekers are prepared to adapt and grow, and how much our employers are prepared to be fair and inclusive.
  100. Members shared some unhappy cases where jobseekers did not succeed in finding jobs during the Budget Debate. And they asked, what went wrong?
  101. Madam, no matter how hard we try, how much passion and commitment we put in, still, we are unable to succeed in helping every jobseeker to find a job. For the rank and file workers, our success rate currently is about 70%. For the PMETs, about 60%.
  102. One of our unsuccessful rank and file cases is Mr A. He left his job as a logistics assistant due to differences with his boss. He had specific expectations in his job search. It must be within four bus stops from where he lives, work only from 9am to 5pm. He demanded that the Career Coach arrange at least 2 job interviews every week for him until he can find a suitable job. And he refused our help to improve his resume and to improve his interview skills. So with his unrealistic expectations, uncooperative and demanding attitude, we have not been able to help him to secure any job. We have not given up on him, even though he has been uncontactable for 6 months now.
  103. In contrast, Miss B, 50 years old, is a successful rank and file case. She is a single-income parent supporting two children and an elderly mother. She has a brain tumour, but under control. She left her previous job as a property consultant and approached our Career Centre after 10 months. She needs to work near her home and end work at 5pm every day due to family responsibilities. She wanted to join the healthcare sector. So with advice from her Career Coach, she took up the WSQ Higher Certificate in Healthcare Support. She has a financial problem so, we helped her with the transport costs, so that she can attend the course. She missed a few modules when she fell ill, but she persevered to complete the course. Because of that determination and willingness to learn and improve herself, today, she is working as a Clinic Assistant.
  104. We have mixed outcomes with PMET jobseekers too. Ms C is highly qualified, with 10 years of experience in banking and finance. She told her Career Coach what she wanted. It must be a senior management position in investment banking, minimum pay of $10,000. But she was unreceptive to advice to enhance her resume and improve on her interview skills. So when she was rejected by potential employers, she demanded that the employers show her the resumes of the successful candidates to verify that they were indeed more qualified than her. She even verbally abused our staff on several occasions. So the current status for such a case is no successful outcome.
  105. On a positive note, Mr D, 47 years old, is a successful PMET case. He worked more than 20 years as a plant manager. He spent the last 10 years based in China. He lost his job when the factory closed down. The last time he looked for a job was more than 10 years ago. He did not know how best to search for a job, so he sent out resumes blindly to 70 companies. Five companies responded but all were unsuccessful. After 8 months, he approached WSG’s Career Centre. Our Career Coach helped him discover his strengths and taught him how to market his strengths to potential employers. And we helped improve his resume to better reflect his capabilities and experience. He attended career fairs and walk-in interviews whenever there were opportunities. So with the support of CSP, he secured a job as production manager without having to suffer any wage cut. We are happy for him.
  106. Madam, when a jobseeker succeeds in securing a job with the help of our Career Coach, we do not claim full credit. It is the result of good team work between the jobseeker and career coach. Likewise, when the outcomes are negative, please do not put all the blame on our career coaches. Please remember this is a joint responsibility. We can only help those who want to help themselves.
  107. Every time I talk to our Career Coaches at WSG and e2i, and we have about 120 of them, I am struck by their competence, their passion and dedication. They are certified career development facilitators,with skills in group facilitation, basic counselling, emotional support, use of psychometric and career matching tools. They also have to keep themselves abreast of industry, jobs and career trends. Most of all, their hearts are at the right place.
  108. Senior Career Coach, Cheng Hing Nan, can feel the pain and anxiety of job seekers, because he himself was retrenched before. One client, Mr Wong, was LTU, his previous salary was more than $10,000. Career Coach Hing Nan knew Mr Wong was under immense stress and had low morale. So he focused on the emotional wellbeing of Mr Wong. He stayed constantly in touch with him, checked on his family, helped with industry research and also prepared him for interviews. After 6 months of team work, Mr Wong found a job as a project manager with a local research facility.
  109. Madam, serving people who have lost their jobs and careers is never easy. It requires us to be sensitive and responsive. I think, as Mr Patrick Tay mentioned, we have to adopt a case approach, a very personal approach. And I salute our career coaches at WSG and e2i who are in our Career Centres for their passion, professionalism and their perseverance in serving our jobseekers one to one, one by one, day after day with their heads, and their hearts. And I urge them to press on because our work is never done.
  110. Madam, with the slowdown of workforce growth from 2% and 3% of the past, to just 1% in the future, we have to value every worker even more. Young and old, PMETs and rank and file, local and foreign. We need to strengthen the inclusiveness of our local workforce, to strengthen our social cohesion. At the same time, we also need to enhance the complementarity of our local and foreign workforces to enhance our economic competitiveness. I think this was a point made by Mr Lee Yi Shyan.
  111. Therefore, the third key we need to have is the key of inclusiveness and complementarity. My colleague MOS Sam Tan will address our support for mature workers, low wage workers and workers who have caregiving responsibilities at home. I will share my thoughts on how we can better manage the inter-relationship between the local and foreign workforce in Singapore.
  112. One-third of our Singapore Workforce today is foreign manpower. This is a permanent feature because we can never be self-sufficient in having enough local workers, both in number and diversity of expertise. Excluding foreign domestic workers, we now have about 1.2 million foreign workers. Are they here to compliment us or to compete against us?
  113. Forty per cent or about 450,000 of them take on labour intensive jobs in the construction, marine, process sectors; demanding jobs that few locals want to do. For example, in the construction sector, they build our HDB flats, roads, MRT networks and other amenities, to make Singapore more liveable.
  114. 45%, or about half a million of them, do jobs that locals want to do. But we do not have enough locals to do all these jobs. For example, PMETs, nurses, engineers, technicians, rank and file workers, cleaners, drivers, service staff.
  115. For example, integrated circuit design engineers are a highly specialised profession. It requires minimally a bachelor’s degree in electronics engineering and half of them have postgraduate qualifications in ICT design and microelectronics. We have such local engineers in Singapore, but do not have enough of them. So given the global shortage for such talent, having foreign ICT design engineers here is a big plus for us. They help us to support the growth of our industry and thereby create more good jobs for Singaporeans. Of course, we will continue to strengthen our Singaporean core. Through MOE’s Singapore Industry Scholarship and EDB’s Industrial Postgraduate Programme.
  116. The remaining 15%, those in global HQs, help bring jobs to Singapore. Global companies can locate their global HQ anywhere in the world. Having them here is good for Singaporeans because for every 3 foreigners in HQ operations, there are about 7 locals. So 3 versus 7. They also give Singaporeans more opportunities to be exposed to new job functions, an international working environment, and global best practices.
  117. Now, those in info-communications help bring technical skills to Singapore. There are more than 100 skills clusters that can be found in info-communications industries in Singapore. Foreigners are stronger in some skills clusters. And likewise, our locals are stronger in some of the skills clusters, compared to the foreigners. Together, they make us more globally competitive. So on the whole, most of the foreigners working in Singapore do complement our local workforce rather than substitute our locals.
  118. Why then, is there this persistent view that foreigners are here to take away our jobs? I believe one reason is “pockets of concentration”. Because in some companies, some segments of industries, some locations, the employers have not given fair consideration to the recruitment and development of our local manpower.
  119. What they have done is wrong, so we are taking action against them, subjecting them to closer scrutiny. Last year, I announced the implementation of the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) watch list.
  120. Mr Patrick Tay, Ms Jessica Tan, Mr Lim Biow Chuan and Associate Professor Faishal Ibrahim asked for an update on the FCF watch list.
  121. Madam, starting with 100 companies, the list has grown to 250 as at end of last month. They come from various industries - Information and Communications Technology, Professional Services, Financial and Insurance Activities, amongst others. Once placed on the FCF watch list, TAFEP guides them to improve their employment practices over a period of 6 months. Some have responded positively. They stepped up local recruitment, with the help of WSG and NTUC e2i. They collaborated with IHLs on the recruitment of new graduates. They put in place in-house training programmes to groom our local talents and they facilitated knowhow transfer to our locals.
  122. Collectively, these firms hired 800 more Singaporean PMEs, since being placed on the FCF watch list. If they continue to improve and adopt fair and progressive practices, they can progressively be removed from the watch list. However, about 50 of them have not been receptive or cooperative. We have not seen enough improvement after 6 months of engagement with them.
  123. Mr Saktiandi Supaat suggests that TAFEP be given more teeth. Indeed, we have. At the recommendation of TAFEP, more than 500 EP applications from these 50 employers have been rejected by MOM or withdrawn by the companies. We will continue to curtail their work pass privileges until they improve.
  124. Madam, the FCF watch list is a negative measure taken against unfair employers who are just a small minority of firms in Singapore. I want to emphasise that a vast majority of the employers are treating our locals fairly. We hope our action against these unfair employers will help reshape the local-foreign mindset for the better.
  125. From one of “2/3 versus 1/3” working together towards one of “2/3 and 1/3”. As we move into our Future Economy, in fact, we need to go another step further. Not just “2/3 versus 1/3” to “2/3 and 1/3”, but towards a mindset of “2/3 plus 1/3 can be bigger than 1”. This will take time so we are starting small with a select group of employers and their employees. Last month, we launched the Human Capital Partnership programme with 74 employers. Employing about 100,000 Singaporeans, they come from different industries, from manufacturing to Services, export-oriented and domestic-bound, hi-tech and high-touch. They also belong to different types of enterprises. Local enterprises and MNCs, GLCs, SMEs, business enterprises and social enterprises. They are very different enterprises but they all share the same three commitments.
  126. Mr Chong Kee Hiong asked what the criteria are. They must share the same three commitments. First, is the commitment to strengthen the Singaporean Core by nurturing the “2/3”. Second, strengthening the complementarity between local and foreign employees by forging a workplace culture of “2/3 and 1/3”, not “2/3 versus 1/3”. And third, strengthen knowhow transfer, adopting the mindset of "2/3 plus 1/3 can be greater than 1", to groom promising local executives into regional and global executives, or what I call the “Glocal” talent. This can be supported under the SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative, a point made by Mr Low.
  127. One example of HCP is Applied Materials. Yvonne Lee joined the company 8 years ago. She and our local pioneer team learned from 4 foreign experts. They were also sent overseas for training exposure. Today, in what is traditionally a male-dominated environment, Yvonne is now a Senior Manufacturing Director leading a team of more than 300. They are based in Singapore and Austin Texas. So the development of local talents has made Singapore’s facility the global facility, for a major series of equipment in Applied Materials.
  128. Madam, to facilitate the growth of progressive employers in Singapore, we will provide our HCP partners with “Fast Lane” access to our development schemes and services, from Transform & Grow, to Adapt & Grow, and SkillsFuture. From Earn & Learn, all the way up to Leadership Development. They will also have hotline access to MOM.
  129. With the FCF watch list and HCP now in place, henceforth, we will adopt a differentiated approach in our engagement of companies.
  130. “Fast Lane” for HCP, who are Progressive employers, with the mindset of “2/3 plus 1/3 can be greater than 1”;
  131. “Normal Lane” for the majority, who are fair employers, with the mindset of “2/3 and 1/3”; and
  132. "Slow Lane” for the FCF Watch List companies. They are employers who engage in unfair HR practices who have the mindset of “2/3 versus 1/3”.
  133. This will send a clear message to all employers that foreign manpower is and will always be an integral part of our Singapore workforce. However, we do expect and require all employers to give fair consideration to the recruitment and development of our local manpower. This is not only the right thing to do for our people but also the right thing to do for businesses, for both to grow better in the future economy.
  134. Madam, last but not least, the fourth key we need to have for a better future is the key of fair and progressive workplaces for all workers. Over the years we have made major changes to our labour laws to cover more workers. Last year, Parliament passed the Employment Claims Act in August to resolve salary-related disputes, both statutory and contractual. This is especially helpful for PMEs, who are not covered by the Employment Act (EA) and have no access to the Labour Court, a point made by Mr Patrick Tay. Last year, we also announced the setting up of the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management (TADM) to mediate all Employment Claims Tribunals (ECT) claims so that only the unsuccessful cases need to be heard at the ECT. I am happy to confirm that ECT and TADM will start operations as scheduled, on 1 April this year.
  135. I am also happy to share with the House that we have started a pilot since September last year, to offer voluntary mediation for disputes that are outside the scope of ECT. We have tried out 50 cases so far involving disputes over termination, training bonds and so on. We are encouraged that 80% of cases were resolved successfully. We will build on this early success and progressively broaden the scope of services at TADM, again, a point made by Mr Patrick Tay.
  136. TADM will also work with Law Society of Singapore to provide access to legal clinics, where skills upgrading or new employment is needed. TADM will partner WSG and NTUC e2i to help. For those who require help with financial or socio-emotional issues, TADM will link them up with Social Service Offices and Family Service Centres respectively. They can also find out more about services provided by the unions at TADM. Last but not least, TADM will also operate a Short Term Relief Fund to provide quick relief to local low wage workers who are owed salary by employers in financial difficulties or facing business failure.
  137. Madam, the setting up of ECT and TADM are major steps forward in strengthening our employment protection framework. At the same time, more needs to be done. In our future economy, we will see a higher proportion of PMETs. Also, rank and file workers will become more skilful and professional. The line between PMETs and rank and file will become less distinct in the future economy.
  138. As the employment profile of our workforce continues to evolve, our current framework of employment protection and workplace practices will need to evolve too. Not just the Employment Act, Industrial Relations Act and Trade Unions Act, which we will continue to review but also tripartite mechanisms. Mr Patrick Tay has made several suggestions to review our employment legislation. These are important to the unions. At the same time employers may have their concerns and reservations too. We need to find the right balance, and this is the best done through tripartite consultations. So we will follow up with the suggestion made by Mr Patrick Tay and engage NTUC and SNEF together to find a way forward.
  139. Today, on one hand, we mandate basic workplace practices through laws and supplement them with tripartite guidelines. Failure to comply can result in action by MOM. One example is the Retirement and Re-employment Act, and the Tripartite Guidelines on the Re-employment of Older Employees. Employers must comply when making Employment Assistance Payment (EAP). Failing to do so can result in MOM taking action against the employer. On the other hand, we promote and encourage progressive work practices through tripartite advisories. For example, the Tripartite Advisory on Managing Workplace Harassment recommends that companies develop a harassment prevention policy on a voluntary basis.
  140. Mr Lim Biow Chuan asked to mandate retrenchment benefits. Mr Patrick Tay also asked whether we can make it more certain for employees to be entitled to retrenchment benefits. Madam, as Mr Lim Biow Chuan said, I had explained the tripartite position in my reply to a PQ and Miss Thanaletchimi just last month. So the current approach, we believe, is a balanced one. Of course, we will keep updating it. But right now, we think it is a balanced one.
  141. One limitation of the current approach is that there is a gap between the two - laws and guidelines for compliance; and advisories for voluntary adoption. Workers do not know exactly which employers are committed to adopt which progressive workplace practices. Likewise, progressive employers are not able to differentiate themselves and be known as fair and progressive employers, to better attract talent.
  142. The tripartite partners therefore decided to introduce what will be known as Tripartite Standards to complement the existing employment laws, tripartite guidelines and advisories. Each standard will specify a set of progressive practices that are verifiable and can also be sector-specific. For example, we can have a tripartite standard on flexible work arrangements, or we can have one that specifies working arrangements in a specific sector like the media sector. Employers can then make public their adoption of the standards through the Jobs Bank and the TAFEP website. Jobseekers would then be able to identify these companies as employers of choice.
  143. The first series of tripartite standards will be launched by the end of the year. More details will be available then. Taken together, laws, guidelines, standards and advisories will form a comprehensive map to help employers build fair and progressive workplaces.
  144. Mr Low Thia Khiang asked about discrimination against NS men. This is against the MINDEF Enlistment Act, so if members know of any specific case they may refer them to TAFEP for investigation.
  145. Madam before I conclude, please allow me to say a few words in mandarin.
  146. 主席,目前,越来越多工友在担心. 有工作的担心什么时候 会失去工作. 没有工作的担心什么时候才能找到工作.
  147. 这样的心情,我很了解.这是因为经济增长幅度比往年㡳. 裁员人数比往年高, 失业率也上升了.
  148. 所以谈到未来经济发展的新方向时,大家心中难免有些疑问. 未来的工作,会更不稳定嗎?未来的事业,会更没有保障嗎?
  149. 我国企业家也在想:目前,顾客难找,员工也难找.将来的营业,生产是不是会越来越艰难呢?
  150. 主席,我在这里可以肯定的说:我们要为我们的国人和企业争取的不是一个一年不如一年的经济增长,就业形势.
  151. 相反的,通过经济的转型,我们要为我们的国家,商家和人民,争取的是一个有更好的商机,更好的工作,更好的前途的未来经济,未来就业市场.
  152. 在这个快速变迁的环球化经济里,竞争激烈,生死存亡在于创新,在于突破. 要成功,要好好生存,员工和企业都必须要好好的掌握科技,善用科技.
  153. 表面上,科技的运用将会减少员工的需求,対员工不利. 但是,实际上,如果我们能比别的国家和企业更早更快善用科技来提高自己的竞争能力的话,科技不仅能够改善我们现有的工作,也能帮我们把更多更好的工作,更多更好的商机从其他国家,企业,带到新加坡来.这对我们的工友,商家,都是有益的.
  154. 我们的工友,人民就能享有更好的就业机会.我国的大,中,小型企业也能享有更多的机遇,更好的发展空间.
  155. 我们都知道,要成功并不容易.跑得慢,我们的竞争条件会被削弱. 跑得快,有些工友,企业怕跟不上.
  156. 所以,我们必须果断,团结. 互相照顾, 互相支持, 一起向前.
  157. 我们劳资政会全力以赴帮我们的工友们提高技能,掌握科技,不断的适应新工作,胜任新事业.
  158. 我们也会尽全力协助中小企业,改革创新,精简人力,善用资源,以更好,更快,更价廉物美的产品,服务扩张国内海外, 新旧市场持续发展.
  159. 主席,经济转型,我们从来就没有失敗过. 现在与未来,我们还是会继续成功的.
  160. 我呼吁大家,要对自己有信心,要对我们的未来更有信心.
  161. 让我们一起为我们的工友争取更好的工作, 更好的事业;为企业争取更好的市场, 更好的前景.
  162. A man was looking for something under a bright lamp post. A passer-by asked, “are you looking for something?” He said, “Yes, I’m looking for my key.” “How big is your key?” “This big.” “Oh, that should be easy to find.” So, the passer-by joined the search. After five minutes, they found nothing. “Are you sure the key is this big?” The man said, “Yes.” “Are you sure you lost it here?” “No, no, no. Over there. In the bushes.” “Then why are we searching for your key here?” “Because it’s too dark over there. It’s brighter, easier to search here.”
  163. Madam, many countries today face the problems of failure. Problems with high and sticky unemployment, problems with wage stagnation. What we face is different. Not problems of failure, but challenges of success. How do we sustain wage growth? How do we sustain full employment? We got here because we did not take the easy way out, searching for a lost key at the wrong place. We had the courage to restructure when needed, continuously.
  164. But most of all, we got here because our tripartite partnership is strong, and our workers, our businesses, our people, they are good. So, working in unity, we are Pro-worker, we are Pro-business. Because if one is weak, the other one cannot be strong. The two are either mutually reinforcing, like what we have here in Singapore, or mutually weakening, like what we see elsewhere. The mutual support we give to each other, the mutual trust we have built and earned with our people, workers, unions, and our businesses, has enabled us to emerge from every economic downturn, from every economic restructuring, not weaker, but stronger.
  165. We are not the only one trying to unlock the door to a future of good jobs and better careers, a future of fair and progressive workplaces. Many countries are searching for keys too, but not many have succeeded. Some may have found 1 out of 4, or 2 out of 4, or even 3 out of 4, but not 4 out of 4. At least not yet. So maybe these four keys are simply not there in the bushes in the first place.
  166. This is why instead of joining in the search for keys, whether in the dark bushes or under the bright lamp post, we’ve always made our own keys to create our own future, the Singapore tripartite way.
  167. Madam, guided by the seven strategies outlined by the CFE, our tripartite partners, both at the national and sectoral levels, are working together to implement the ITMs. Together, we can help our businesses to transform and create quality jobs, help our people to adapt to new jobs, make our local workforce more inclusive while strengthening the complementarity in our local-foreign workforce, and lastly, enhance our employment protection framework for a fair and progressive workplace. So, these are the four keys to a future of better careers for all.
  168. We know what we need to do and we are working in unity to get there ahead of all the others. So please, have confidence in ourselves, in each other, and in our future. Let us transform and grow together to create growth in our economy, adapt and grow together to create good jobs and better careers for all our people, to live a better life.
  169. On that, thank you.

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