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Speech by Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo at 108th International Labour Conference

Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo, Geneva, Switzerland

Conference Chair

Distinguished delegates 

  1. Singapore congratulates the International Labour Organization (ILO) on its centenary.

a. This is a very significant milestone

b. Speaks to the continued relevance of the ILO and its unique tripartite structure. 

  1. Singapore would also like to commend Director-General Guy Ryder for his leadership in starting important conversations about the future of work. 
  2. The ILO Global Commission’s Report, “Work for a brighter future”, is a clarion call for each country to prepare our economy, our businesses and our workers for the Future of Work.

Fostering regional conversations about the Future of Work

  1. On such important topics, Singapore’s firm belief is that learning from each other is always helpful.
  • This is demonstrated by our commitment to promote progressive labour practices in the region, under our Partnership Agreement with the ILO. 
  1. In this spirit, Singapore co-organised the “Singapore Conference on the Future of Work” with the ILO.
  2. The event attracted 700 tripartite delegates from 18 countries.
  • The 10 ASEAN Member States;
  • ASEAN’s six dialogue partners – Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and Republic of Korea; as well as
  • Mongolia and Timor-Leste.
  1. During the Conference, the ASEAN Labour Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to prepare ASEAN’s workers and businesses for the Future of Work through a Joint Statement – the first such statement by a regional grouping.
  2. Over two days, Conference participants also reaffirmed the importance of close tripartite cooperation, shared their experiences and discussed concrete ways to prepare for the Future of Work.
  3. To build on this momentum and contribute to the legacy of the ILO’s centenary, I mooted the idea of a Future of Work Regional Initiative for continued dialogue and capability-building in ASEAN and our region. We hope this will spur more of such regional initiatives to promote experience-sharing and collaboration.  We will be engaging the ILO and other international partners on this Initiative.

Singapore’s Approach to the Future of Work 

  1. Singapore has in fact started preparing the Future of Work by introducing several key initiatives a few years ago. But we are conditioned by our demographic challenges.
  2. For many years now, we have had more jobs than people. Our businesses have many opportunities in a growing region. However, in an open and connected economy, we are always vulnerable to the global winds of change. 
  3. At the same time, as business models are increasingly disrupted, the pressure to transform jobs and skills is also building up. Against this backdrop, we have the challenge and opportunity of increased longevity. Our people are living longer and enjoying more healthy years.
  4. How does Singapore chart our Future of Work? In one word, Tripartism.
  • Over the past 3 – 4 years, our economic agencies and tripartite partners have worked together to draw up 23 Industry Transformation Maps covering more than 80% of our economy. These set out how employers can tap on opportunities in the future economy, and prepare and support workers to take on better quality jobs.
  • In addition, the Singapore National Trades Union Congress, or NTUC, will work with employers to set up training committees in companies. These company training committees will identify areas of training and skills for workers to keep up with industry transformation, with strong support from the Singapore National Employers Federation.
  • Another example is the Tripartite Workgroup (TWG) on Older Workers. The TWG was set up to review our retirement and re-employment age, and to help our people earn more and save more for retirement.
  1. We also recognise the need to support career mobility for our workers through commitment from 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.
  1. For tripartism to thrive, we nurture a healthy ecosystem that comprises of:
  • An agile workforce
  • Agile businesses
  • And, very importantly, agile government
  1. 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.  Under our Adapt and Grow initiative, the Professional Conversion Programmes also support workers to reskill for new jobs.
  2. For businesses, it will be increasingly important to take advantage of technology and training to keep pace with industry transformation.
  3. The Government must also stay responsive to take the lead, for example, to point out future directions and pitfalls. And most importantly, the Government must help to bring the key stakeholders together, to get our priorities aligned.

Ratification of Occupational Safety and Health Convention

  1. Workplace safety and health has always been a key priority and will continue to be so in our vision for the Future of Work. 
  2. Singapore recently launched our Workplace Safety and Health 2028 strategies. Our target is to reduce our workplace fatality rate from the current average of 1.4 per 100,000 workers over the last three years, to less than 1 by 2028, on a sustained basis. This will make Singapore’s workplaces among the safest and healthiest in the world.
  3. To get there, the tripartite partners will:
  • Strengthen WSH ownership among company management by sharpening commercial incentives for good workplace safety and health performance, and among workers by having unions involve more workers in safety planning and training;
  • Enhance focus on workplace health by expanding efforts to prevent occupational diseases and better manage chronic diseases, as well as promoting mental health at work; and
  • Promote adoption of technology that can tackle WSH problems and monitor workplace hazards, by building industry capability to develop and test-bed new solutions.
  1. To signal our commitment to our Workplace Safety and Health 2028 Strategies to provide our workers with safe and healthy conditions, Singapore is pleased to announce that we will be ratifying the ILO’s Occupational Safety and Health Convention, Convention No. 155.


  1. Together with our tripartite partners, the Singapore government is committed to ensuring that the Future of Work is one of more and better jobs for all.
  2. We will continue to work closely with the ILO and support the ILO’s call for a human-centred agenda for the Future of Work. Thank you.