Opening Remarks at Singapore Conference on the Future of Work: Embracing Technology; Inclusive Growth
Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo , Raffles City Convention Centre
Mr Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization,
Dato Lim Jock Hoi, Secretary-General of ASEAN,
Fellow Ministers and senior officials from ASEAN and partner nations,
My co-hosts this morning
Sister Mary Liew, President of NTUC
Brother Ng Chee Meng, Sec-Gen NTUC and Minister PMO
Brother Dr Robert Yap, President SNEF
Brothers and sisters from the Singapore tripartite movement,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- Good morning. On behalf of the tripartite partners in Singapore, welcome to the Conference on the Future of Work, especially to all our overseas delegates.
- The Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the Singapore National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) are honoured to co-organise this conference together with the International Labour Organization (ILO).
- The topic today is the Future of Work. All of us have a vested interest in it.
- Unionists are concerned about workers’ livelihoods,
- Businesses wonder how their workforce must adapt,
- Governments want to make sure that growth is inclusive, economies stay vibrant, and societies remain cohesive.
- We congratulate the ILO on its centenary and thank DG Guy Ryder for ILO’s leadership in starting important conversations about the future of work.
- The Global Commission’s report is aptly titled “Work for a Brighter Future”.
- It made clear each country should develop its own set of national strategies, adapted to national circumstances.
- But learning from each other is always helpful.
- Our conference in Singapore hopes to make a small contribution to this important global conversation
- The great advantage for ASEAN is that our economies are growing. If this were not so, it will be harder to look to the future with a sense of hope.
- With more than 640 million people, ASEAN is today collectively the world’s fifth-largest economy.
- ASEAN’s economy has grown by an average of 5.3% annually since 2000, above the global average of 3.8%.
- Our GDP has more than quadrupled over the last two decades to about US$2.7 trillion1 today. This is faster than many other emerging economies.
- Even with an overall growth story, we are not without challenges.
- First, demographic shifts.
- Globally, the total fertility rate (TFR) has been in steady decline for decades.
- In the early 50s, half of the world’s population lived in countries where TFR was above 5.5.
- From the last decade, more than half of the world’s population already lived in countries with below replacement TFR, which is 2.12,3
- Among the 10 ASEAN member states, five have below- replacement TFR. Most people are surprised when I share this factoid.
- While TFR decreases, life expectancy has been going up with improved healthcare. This means that the size of aged population will grow rapidly all over the world.
- By 2030, the number of people in the world aged 60 and over will be about the same as China’s population today, at about 1.4 billion.
- In 2015, Japan was the only country in Asia with an elderly population (aged 65 and over) exceeding 15%, but that is a thing of the past.
- Even within ASEAN, the proportion of the population aged 65 and above, is expected to double over two decades, from 7.7% in 2015 to about 15.5% in 2035.
- While some countries in ASEAN have rapidly growing youth populations today, with these demographics, the size of the working age population will fall with time.
- These developments could mean
- Increased pressures on pension or retirement support systems, including for informal workers and, as a result,
- And a need to adjust our strategies. In particular, our growth strategies.
- Besides demographics, the second challenge is that technology will also change the jobs landscape. We now know:
- Technology creates new jobs even as it causes some to be lost
- More importantly, all existing jobs are likely to be transformed
- However, it is not a given that job quality will improve for everyone.
- How can we
- take full advantage of technology to improve job quality,
- and just as importantly, to walk this journey with our workers?
- Finally, we also have to be mindful of climate change, which could further disrupt businesses and workers.
- In spite of these challenges, ASEAN remains a place of potential. Because of the growth momentum,
- we can avoid massive youth unemployment or under-employment if we equip the youths with the right vocational skills,
- development can also be more inclusive, especially for women and seniors,
- businesses can be encouraged to make work safer and smarter for vulnerable groups.
- Our efforts today will determine whether our societies continue to progress, where our people get the chance to
- improve economic security,
- fulfil their human potential, and
- enjoy social protection and justice.
- I am hopeful these can be achieved, if we focus on investing in
- our people’s capabilities,
- the institutions of work and
- making work decent and sustainable.
- Singapore therefore affirms the Global Commission’s report and the call to “Work for a Brighter Future”.
- In fact, our approach towards the future of work is broadly aligned with the recommendations.
- Let me share briefly how Singapore thinks about it.
Singapore’s approach: Tripartism is key
- Since independence, Singapore has recognised the critical need to develop our people to their fullest potential.
- This is aligned with ILO’s human-centred agenda.
- We are always mindful that our policies and initiatives must ultimately benefit our workers.
- Beyond ensuring that our people can find meaningful work, Singapore regularly reviews our employment legislation, policies and programmes, to ensure:
- adequate and appropriate labour and social protection;
- an inclusive workforce; and
- progressive workplaces;
- We also recognise the need to support career mobility for our workers, regardless of where they start.
- What do we mean by career mobility?
- For our young graduates: it means opportunities to enter into exciting jobs that are being created;
- For those already in the workforce: it is the ability to move into new careers or job roles with confidence;
- For our seniors: it means options to continue working if they want to;
- For those in low-wage jobs: it is about having the skills to be more productive and to advance.
- In Singapore, we also believe that career mobility is best achieved through four key commitments by the tripartite partners:
- First, shared ownership of the future. It belongs to us together and we have to create it together;
- Second, shared values in being both pro-worker and pro-business in all that we do;
- Shared vision of an inclusive workforce and progressive workplaces; and
- Last and not least, shared resources to address fresh challenges as one tripartite movement.
- Together, we must constantly nurture a healthy ecosystem that comprises of:
- An agile workforce
- Agile businesses
- And, very importantly, agile government
- An agile workforce is one that is proactive in picking up new skills to stay relevant.
- This is the essence of SkillsFuture, Singapore’s national movement that promotes lifelong learning and skills mastery,
- And the objective is, to borrow the words of my brother Lim Swee Say, to make every worker a better worker, still the best phrase to describe what this is all about.
- And this can be done through the active support of our unions.
- And later during the conference, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) will share more on how they are supporting this effort through worker 4.0.
- For businesses, it will be increasingly important to take advantage of technology and training
- To keep pace with industry transformation,
- improve the quality of jobs and
- help workers be more productive and empowered.
- The Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) will elaborate more on this later in the conference.
- The Government must also stay responsive.
- We have to take the lead, for example, to point out future directions and pitfalls.
- We must also make resources available, or help get them organised.
- And most importantly, Government must help to bring the key stakeholders together, to get our priorities aligned,
- So that we can be greater than the sum of our parts.
- And all of society can make progress together.
- One example of the tripartite partners coming together to ensure career mobility of our workers is through the Adapt and Grow (A&G) initiative.
- And this was launched in 2016.
- The A&G initiative consists of different programmes to help workers transition into new careers.
- Last year, A&G helped more than 30,000 jobseekers move into new jobs.
- An increase of 20% compared to over 25,000 in 2017.
- More than half of jobseekers were PMETs.
- Nearly one in three was aged 50 and above.
- It is the willingness of our workers to adapt, supported by enlightened employers, and programmes like these that help to keep Singapore’s employment high and unemployment low.
- Industry transformation is also setting the pace, in the finance and maritime sectors, for example.
- Both sectors are significant contributors to Singapore’s economy:
- In the finance sector, it employs more than 160,000 workers who, together, contribute more than 10% of Singapore’s GDP,
- In the maritime sector, there are more than 170,000 workers, who, together, contribute about 7% of Singapore’s GDP.
- To get a sense of what’s happening, why don’t we let you see for yourselves?
- How about a round of applause for our very inspiring workers and the enlightened employers that are helping them to make this transition?
- So, I hope these two examples encourage every one of us that it is possible to embrace technology to have inclusive growth in the future of work.
- We do this by through promoting lifelong learning,
- Because skills will be the engine that propel people upwards and laterally
- To achieve greater career mobility at all stages of their lives.
Announcement and closing remarks
- In a few days, we will mark International Labour Day. To better serve all of our workers, let us face our challenges with a balance of humility and confidence
- Humility, because we will never have all the answers to all the questions about the future
- Confidence, because as humans, we have the capacity to learn and adapt, not just to survive but to thrive
- This conference is a great opportunity for tripartite partners in ASEAN and our region to convene and prepare ourselves for the future of work.
- It is however, only a beginning. It is clear we will need a platform for ASEAN to:
- continuously learn from each other,
- build capacity and share best practices.
- This morning, the ASEAN Labour Ministers adopted and signed the ASEAN Labour Ministers’ Statement on the Future of Work.
- This clearly demonstrates our collective commitment
- to answer the ILO’s call
- to “Work for a Brighter Future”
- for all our people.
- To support us in this journey, we also discussed the idea of a Future of Work Regional Initiative
- to build on today’s Conference
- for continued social dialogue and capability-building
- We believe it will benefit us to bring together international experts and regional stakeholders to share and develop ASEAN’s capabilities areas through workshops, seminars and courses.
- With the support of the ILO and our ASEAN colleagues, Singapore is happy to do its part to help get this regional initiative going.
- For a start, we can focus on three key areas:
- Tripartism, for businesses and workers to find win-win solutions and thrive collectively in the future of work.
- Workplace safety and health for decent and sustainable work; and
- Embracing technology for inclusive growth.
- We are excited to work with our tripartite partners – NTUC and SNEF, and will also engage our partners, including ASEAN, ILO and other stakeholders to explore further how to bring this idea to fruition.
- The need for action is urgent. My hope is that through greater partnership and collaboration, we can all embrace the future of work and win as one ASEAN.
- Thank you all once again for being here in the Future of Work Conference and Happy May Day in advance.