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Speech at G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting

Minister for Manpower, Mr Lim Swee Say, Bad Neuenahr, Germany

Session 1 – Future of Work

  1. Thank you, Madam Chair. I would like to make just three points.
  2. First, technology will be the key driver of the future of work.
  3. It will destroy many “jobs-of-today” because technology can do these jobs cheaper, better and faster.
  4. But yet at the same time, technology will also help create many “jobs-of-tomorrow”, from high tech to high touch, from advance manufacturing to digital services.
  5. From a policy point of view, faster and more pervasive adoption of technology is to be welcomed as it will create better jobs and better careers for workers globally.
  6. Second, adaptability will be the key attribute of the future of skills.
  7. The faster pace of transformation will lead to growing job-skill mismatch in the future economy.
  8. From a policy point of view, this means more workers will have to re-skill repeatedly just to remain employable in the same profession, or pursue new and different professions. The most important skill of the future is therefore the ability to re-skill.
  9. Third, innovation and inclusiveness can co-exist in the future of workforce. The two need not be mutually exclusive.
  10. From a policy point of view, we should not allow technology and innovation to divide our workforce. Instead, we should use them to improve the employment and enhance the employability of all workers.
  11. For example, telecommuting can make workplaces more family-friendly; robotisation or cobotisation can make jobs easier, safer and smarter for the older workers to work longer; intelligent technology can help improve productivity and improve wages, make work more decent especially for the lower wage workers.
  12. These positive outcomes in the future of work, future of skills and future of workforce will not happen by themselves, or by chance.
  13. In Singapore, with the full alignment and joint efforts of our tripartite partners – unions, employers and government, we are transforming all major sectors covering 80% of our economy to sustain growth for our businesses and create jobs of the future for our people.
  14. We are also inculcating a mindset of lifelong learning and lifelong re-skilling under a nationwide SkillsFuture movement for our people to adapt and grow to pursue careers of the future.
  15. In short, we are determined to succeed in making our future economy even more innovative, and our future workforce even more inclusive by pursuing the three pillars of jobs of the future, skills of the future and careers of the future in a holistic way.
  16. Madam Chair, the journey into the future is both challenging and exciting. We look forward to learning from the experience of other countries.
  17. Together, we can shape the future of work for the benefit of all.
  18. Thank you.

Session 2 – Quality of Female Employment

  1. Good afternoon Chair, Ministers and colleagues.
  2. Singapore strongly supports this emphasis on enhancing the Quality of Female Employment.
  3. Women should be able to live fulfilling lives, without having to choose between their career and their family. Because both are important.
  4. In Singapore, we have made steady progress over the last 10 years.
  5. First, employment rate of women aged 25-64 has in-creased steadily from 63% to 72% in the last 10 years, comparable to the top 10 OECD countries in terms of female employment rate.
  6. Second, the median wage of women in Singapore has increased by more than 5% per annum in the last 10 years, same pace as that for men. This is good but we believe that we can do better because there is still a gender wage gap of 10.3% in 2016.
  7. Third, our workplace has continued to become family-friendly. The proportion of employees who work in companies offering formal Flexible Work Arrangements has increased from 1 in 2 (56%) in 2011 five years ago, to two in three (67%) in 2016.
  8. Building on our progress, we are continuing to strengthen our support for Singapore women in three key areas.
  9. First, improve our female employment rate further. Our challenge is to help more women stay in work, especially the mothers. At the same time, for those who have left, to help them to return to work.
  10. We are therefore raising the adoption rate of flexible work arrangements by both the employers and employees.
  11. For example, we encourage more companies to offer part-time and job sharing opportunities for those who are not ready yet to return to full-time employment due to their family care responsibilities.
  12. Second, help our women to stay employable and be more future-ready. We are doing more to help them learn new skills, be more adaptable, so that they can keep pace with changes in the future economy. This is especially important for those who have taken a career break due to family commitments.
  13. For example, our social partners are embarking on a “Returnship” initiative to help Singapore women to re-fresh their skills, re-enter the workforce and transit to new jobs and new careers.
  14. We are also providing wage and training support to al-low both the employers and employees to assess each other’s suitability during the transitional period.
  15. Third, we are strengthening HR practices for fair and progressive treatment regardless of gender. Employers should set clear targets, conduct regular performance assessments and appraise employees fairly based on work outcomes, regardless of whether they are on flexi-load, flexi-time or flexi-place work arrangements. This is advocated in the advisories and guidelines issued by our social partners.
  16. Overall, with our tripartite efforts, we have come some way in helping Singapore women to better manage their family responsibilities, work aspirations and personal needs. However, there is much more we can do to support Singapore women, from their husbands, to employers, government and the community.
  17. Our commitment is to grow the community of progressive employers to engender an even more supportive and conducive workplace for Singapore women.
  18. In closing, Singapore fully supports the G20 labour and employment agenda. Singapore will play our part and make our contribution. Women should not have to choose between family and career. We should support them to fulfil their aspirations in both.
  19. Thank you, Madam Chair.