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Minister for Manpower Mrs Josephine Teo's speech at Committee of Supply 2021

Minister for Manpower Mrs Josephine Teo

As delivered


A. Preamble

Looking back at 2020

A1. Mr Chairman - I thank GPC MPs and others who have spoken passionately.

A2. 2020 was an unusual year for MOM. With the COVID-19 pandemic, two battlefronts opened up.

a. In terms of pandemic control, MOM was involved in managing the inflows of work pass holders and the outbreak in the migrant worker dormitories.

b. On the economic front, we faced the sharpest employment contraction in decades.

A3. In March last year, I had said that MOM would review the housing arrangements for our migrant workers, raise standards, improve well-being and be better prepared for a

next pandemic.

a. In August, we set up a new dedicated group in MOM, the Assurance, Care and Engagement (ACE) team, to provide better support to our migrant workers.

A4. We have made good progress.

a. We are reviewing plans to expand coverage of the Foreign Employees Dormitories Act (FEDA).

b. And, we will pilot a Migrant Workers’ On-boarding Centre.

A5. Later, Second Minister Dr Tan See Leng will detail the steps we intend to take to transform the landscape for migrant workers.

A6. On the jobs front, we have started 2021 on firmer footing:

a. Were this not so, we will be having a very different debate.

b. Resident employment has rebounded to slightly above pre-COVID levels;

c. Resident unemployment rate has fallen since October last year. In January, resident unemployment further moderated to 4.3%.

A7. Throughout the crisis, our workforce has shown remarkable resilience. Employers too heeded the call to retain their Singaporean core.

A8. On its part, the Government provided strong support for local employment.

a. Many more Singaporeans stayed employed because of the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) plus the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package.

b. At the same time, we tightened controls on foreign manpower to account for the slack in the labour market.

A9. But there is more work to be done.

a. Unemployment and long-term unemployment rates are still elevated.

b. Even for those employed, some are in short-term or transitional positions.

A10. With this as backdrop, MOM has three overarching priorities:

a. In the short term, we must secure the rebound by shoring up hiring of locals. As Mr. Desmond Choo reminds us, we should not, for a moment, assume this will be easy.

b. Beyond immediate concerns, we must not lose sight of the medium- and longer-term. Digitalisation, remote work, widening income gaps and an ageing workforce will continue to challenge us. We must aim to overcome the crisis and help every segment of the workforce emerge stronger.

c. To do this well, our employers are critical. Their capacity to innovate and become more productive will determine how much we can improve job quality over time. In

supporting business transformation, we will pay particular attention to SMEs.


B. Securing our rebound

B1. Given the uncertainties that still persist, the job market may take a while to recover. Our aim is two-fold:

a. First, for employers, shore up hiring demand.

b. Second, for workers, seize better opportunities.

B2. As announced by DPM, we will extend the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package. Mr Liang Eng Hwa has asked how these programmes will help.


Jobs Growth Incentive

B3. From September to October 2020, we estimate that the JGI supported over 110,000 new local hires, by around 26,000 employers.

a. This 110,000 represents roughly 5% of the workforce. In two short months, such a movement into growing companies is not insignificant, especially when we consider the hiring weakness.

b. About half of the new hires were aged 40 and above.

c. Prof Hoon Hian Teck will be interested to know that one third of JGI hires switched into new sectors, possibly a reallocation towards jobs with better future prospects.

B4. JGI may also be helping to address the issue of unemployment and under-employment which Mr Patrick Tay was concerned about.

a. Around 3 in 10 JGI hires were not previously in a job; majority had been out of work for more than 6 months. In other words, the JGI uplifted those who were long-term  unemployed as well.

b. More than 6 in 10 got the same or higher pay than their last-drawn.

B5. To reduce scarring, we must be ready to deal with further displacements.

a. Without JGI lubricating the process, the movement of workers into growing firms and industries will likely be slower.

b. A JGI extension of seven months is helpful, and we will assess what is needed after September.

c. It comes on top of long-standing schemes like WSG’s career conversion programmes.

B6. Since 2016, we have facilitated over 34,000 placements or redeployments through WSG’s career conversion programmes.

a. Before 2020, WSG placed on average 5,000 annually.

b. Last year, we placed over 13,000, including a spike in re-deployments.

c. This year, despite more subdued employer interest, we have catered capacity for 10,000 places.

B7. Contrary to Dr Jamus Lim’s suggestion, the Professional Conversion Programmes have well-documented outcomes.

a. About 90% of the participants remained employed after 18 months.

b. About seven in 10 earned more than their last drawn.

B8. Mr Desmond Choo and Dr Lim can be assured that such conversion programmes will remain a core feature of our system of employment support.

B9. As for the JGI, this remains an extra-ordinary measure.

a. Employers should not delay their local hiring, in the hope that the JGI will be available indefinitely.

b. I hope Dr Lim agrees that some urgency on the part of employers helps jobseekers.

B10. At the same time, I hope employers take note of the enhanced support when they hire mature workers, persons with disabilities, and ex-offenders. As noted by Members

Mr Yip Hon Weng, Ms Ng Ling Ling and Mr Eric Chua, these jobseekers face greater difficulties. This is why

a. We will provide 50% support for the first $6,000 of gross monthly wages, for up to 18 months.

b. Altogether, employers can receive up to $54,000 for each eligible hire.


SGUJS Package

B11. Even with the substantial support provided under the JGI, we are realistic that not all employers can expand hiring.

a. This is why we have extended the SGUnited Traineeships, SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways and Skills programmes.

b. Minister of State Gan Siow Huang will say more about the enhancements for the SGUnited Traineeships Programme, and on the SGUnited Skills programme at MOE’s COS.

B12. For all unemployed jobseekers, until a suitable job materialises, these traineeships and attachments are the best way to be supported.

a. I thank Dr Lim for recognising that “Singapore already has most of the elements of an end-to-end safety net in place including the functional equivalent of unemployment  insurance”.

b. Prof Hoon thoughtfully highlighted the irony of unemployment insurance in heightening or even prolonging unemployment. NTUC also recognises its limitations.

c. Unemployment or redundancy insurance, which Dr Lim also calls for, can indeed provide useful income relief.

d. But they cannot replace efforts to help people get back to work.

e. Insurance payouts may also not match the allowances we are providing.

f. Many unemployed persons will not qualify for any redundancy insurance payout. They include new graduates just entering the workforce, workers who were dismissed, whose contracts ended and were not renewed.

g. Nonetheless, we agree with Mr Patrick Tay not to foreclose these options. MOM will continue to study their merits.

B13. In the meantime, two key enhancements will make the attachments under the SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programmes more attractive for mature individuals and their  company hosts.

a. Participants aged 40 and above can receive higher training allowances of up to $3,800, compared to $3,000 previously.

b. Host organisations will share just 10% of the allowance, compared to 20% previously. With this enhancement, it is even more affordable to host someone with years of work  experience than a new job entrant


Job Matching Efforts

B14. To ensure that jobseekers can access help, WSG expanded its outreach significantly.

a. For the first time, career matching services were brought to the heartlands at scale, with the SGUnited Jobs and Skills centres in all 24 HDB towns.

b. Thanks to the close partnership across Government agencies, with unions and employers, WSG placed close to 55,000 locals into jobs, traineeships and attachments. This is 70% higher than what we achieved in 2019.

B15. This work does not stop. WSG is continuing to innovate to provide better support to our jobseekers.

B16. No jobseeker need ever walk alone. WSG has been and will always be a pathfinder for you.


C. Workforce Resilience: Emerging Stronger Together

C1. Mr Chairman, many MPs have asked what we can do to fortify our workforce in the post-COVID world.

C2. We have always operated on the principle of fairness at work, for both individuals and employers, to maintain cohesiveness in an open economy.

C3. Every worker segment must have a fair chance to emerge stronger. Businesses must have fair support to succeed.

C4. Apart from securing the rebound, we will have five key thrusts:

a. For lower-wage workers (LWWs), we will focus on equality, mobility and dignity.

b. For mature workers, we will address concerns over employability and retirement adequacy.

c. For self-employed persons, women, and persons with disabilities, our focus is on inclusion and progression;

d. For our PMETs workforce, we need fair opportunities, quality and diversity.

e. For migrant workers and foreign domestic workers, we need a renewed focus on safety, health and wellness.


Our Lower-wage workers: equality, mobility, and dignity

C5. Allow me to focus on lower-wage workers. Over the next years, our income gap has narrowed. Incomes at the 20th percentile grew faster than the median.

C6. This decade, our ambition is to build on these gains and significantly grow incomes at the lower end.

C7. Workfare, which the Government introduced in 2007, will remain a permanent feature of our social safety net, boosting incomes at the lower end and moderating inequality.

C8. But wages must go up, while preserving options to work.

a. We agree with Dr Koh Poh Koon, Mayor Fahmi and Mr Pritam Singh that it is only fair for essential services workers to be better recognised for their efforts.

b. As a society, we must be willing to accord dignity through paying better salaries to those at the lowest end.

C9. We must also create pathways for these workers to progress.

a. I am very glad Mr Raj Joshua recognises this as the true value of the Progressive Wage Model (PWM).

b. No one should dismiss its meaningfulness to workers, whatever their age of these workers.

C10. This is why in October last year, with the encouragement of DPM Heng, I sought the support of Sec-Gen NTUC and President SNEF to set up the Tripartite Workgroup on  Lower-Wage Workers.

C11. The Workgroup is making good progress.

a. It has developed an ambitious plan and detailed roadmap for a major expansion of the PWM.

b. We will start by introducing PWM to the food service and retail sectors.

c. In cleaning, security, and landscaping, in-house workers will be covered.

d. We will also work out ways to introduce PWM to other occupational groups, what Dr Koh calls vocational PWM.

e. Senior Minister of State Zaqy who chairs the Workgroup will provide more details in his speech.

C12. Mr Chairman, Singapore has what it takes to uplift the lives of our lower-wage workers and their families.

a. In doing so, Singapore will become a better and more cohesive society.


Mature Workers: employability and retirement adequacy

C13. Let me now turn to mature workers. We have tended to put everyone 40 and above into the same category of “mature workers”.

a. However, one can almost see two distinct generations within this group, with vastly different educational and work experiences.

C14. The group now aged 55-69 were born in pre-independence Singapore, from 1951-1965.

a. One third of this group have below secondary qualifications.

b. Fewer than 30% have a diploma or degree.

c. Nonetheless, given the widespread expansion of opportunities, nearly 40% hold PMET jobs.

C15. The group now aged 40-54 were born in post-independence Singapore, from 1966-1980.

a. Only 10% have below secondary qualifications.

b. Over 60% have a diploma or degree.

c. Nearly 70% hold PMET jobs.

C16. As a result of these differences, a 2019 Ministry of Finance study had some interesting findings when it compared Singaporeans born in the 1950s and 1970s:

a. In terms of median real income, the younger group earned twice as much as the older group when both were in their 40s.

b. In terms of median real Ordinary and Special Account CPF balances, the younger group had three times as much as the older group.

C17. For the older age group, it is fair that they have the opportunity to work longer. It will help them build up more for retirement.

a. In this regard, I fully agree with NTUC Deputy Sec-Gen Brother Heng Chee How and Mr Yip Hon Weng.

b. We should avoid a disruption of our plans to raise the retirement and re-employment ages.

C18. Therefore, from 1 July 2022:

a. The statutory minimum Retirement Age will go up from 62 to 63.

b. The statutory Re-Employment Age will also go up from 67 to 68.

c. As earlier committed, the public service will proceed with these changes a year ahead of legislation.

d. This will help to keep us on track to raise the Retirement Age to 65 and Re-Employment Age to 70 by the end of this decade.

C19. While we are asking more of our employers, we have also provided them fair support to make these adjustments. This is why we announced the $1.3 billion Senior Worker  Support Package last year.

a. Companies that raise their retirement and re-employment ages before it becomes compulsory, can apply for the Senior Worker Early Adopter Grant.

b. Many seniors will work longer if they can do so part time. Employers that provide such opportunities can apply for the Part-time Re-employment Grant. Together with support

for job-redesign which I will say more about later, this helps to address Ms Ng Ling Ling’s concerns on broadening the range of jobs for senior workers.

C20. Interest in these two grants has been high. Since they started in July last year, we have supported 1,700 companies with 17,000 senior worker beneficiaries.

a. We will top up their budget by over $200 million to directly benefit about 75,000 seniors.

b. But the larger goal is to create the momentum and shape a new norm among employers, where many more companies raise retirement and re-employment ages to 65 and  70, well before 2030.

C21. A senior who can leave the workforce at age 70 instead of 67 and defers the start of his CPF LIFE payouts accordingly, can get around 20% more per month for life.

C22. Can it be more? Part of the answer lies in raising CPF contribution rates for those aged 55 and above.

a. Two years ago, tripartite partners had agreed to set in motion a phased increase, starting from 2021.

b. Due to COVID-19, this was deferred by a year to avoid worsening the employment prospects of older workers.

C23. Fortunately, despite the pandemic, senior employment has largely held up.

C24. Tripartite partners therefore agree to push ahead, barring unforeseen circumstances, to raise senior worker CPF contribution rates from 1 Jan 2022.

a. The CPF Transition Offset scheme will absorb half of the increase for employers in the first year.

b. The impact will be further cushioned by the Senior Employment Credit which provides up to 8% wage offset to employers of senior workers for the next two years until the end  of 2022. We will study the extension beyond 2022 and will update in due course.

C25. As to Mr Louis Chua’s question on whether CPF members can earn higher returns, there is no magic formula.

a. Higher returns come from taking higher risks.

b. Prior to the pandemic, we had been studying if a Lifetime Retirement Investment Scheme (LRIS) can be introduced to help members who have the risk appetite and  investment horizon but not enough investment knowledge.

c. Recent events have altered the investment environment.

d. We need to update our planning assumptions and strike the right balance between risk and return in our design of LRIS.

e. I seek members’ understanding that we will update when ready.

C26. I have outlined changes to the retirement and re-employment age plus CPF that will also benefit the mature workers still in their 40s and 50s, provided they remain in the  workforce.

C27. Everywhere in the world, automation and digital advances have shifted labour demand towards higher-level skills.

a. At all levels including PMETs, perfectly competent people can be at risk of displacement, unless they upskill.

b. Even in China, McKinsey estimates that up to 220 million workers may need to reskill for new occupations from 2018 to 2030. That’s almost 30% of the Chinese workforce.

C28. We must try and make the best of these trends.

a. We can help our people pick up new skills and move into new jobs.

b. With our strong educational foundation and build-up of the continuing education and training ecosystem, we can turn this challenge into an opportunity for Singaporeans.

c. By doing it better than other countries, we can strengthen our competitiveness.

C29. This must be complemented by new job creation and upgrading of existing jobs, both of which comes from pervasive business transformation, including that by SMEs. I will  say more about its nexus with workforce transformation later.

C30. But let me highlight two concerns.

a. A previous survey in Singapore observed that our older workers are more dependant than their younger peers on employers’ guidance to attend training.

b. Yet a recent study by the World Economic Forum suggests that in addressing new business opportunities, employers in Singapore are less likely than countries like Japan  and Australia to re-skill existing workers, choosing instead to hire new staff who they can plug-and-play.

C31. These attitudes must change.

a. It must become a norm for employers in Singapore to build on the transferable skills of mature workers to meet new business opportunities.

b. At the same time, we also need mature workers to take greater ownership of their skills upgrading. A new norm of continuous re-invention must take root, as Ms Janet Ang  also envisioned.

C32. Brother Abdul Samad would be pleased to note that career conversion programmes benefitted 12,600 mature individuals in the last three years.

a. And we want to go further.

C33. This year, we will introduce new programmes for in-demand jobs in growing sectors such as Manufacturing and Information communications & Technology to provide fair

opportunities for our jobseekers.

a. The training and salary support in these programmes come on top of the enhanced Jobs Growth Incentive.

b. As a result, employers can get up to 95% of the costs covered.

c. It’s very generous and the right way to recognise employers and workers for making the effort.

C34. 冠病疫情打击了国人的生计,也打乱了大家的生活。但一些有着深远影响的政策,我们仍需坚持推行。

a. 因此,我们将按照原定计划,从2022年, 也就是明年7月,将退休年龄和重新雇佣年龄的顶限,分别上调到63岁以及68岁。

b. 我们也将于明年1月,提高年长员工的公积金缴交率,协助他们累积更多的退休储蓄。

C35. 新政策要真正帮助到年长员工,须要所有雇主的鼎力支持与配合。

a. 去年,政府推出了13亿元的年长员工补贴配套 (Senior Worker Support Package),协助企业调整运作,以便继续雇用年长员工。

b. 一年下来,纵使疫情当下,已经有1千700家公司利用了政府补贴,提前落实并调高退休与重新雇佣年龄,甚至是制造部分时间的职位,让1万7000名年长员工能够继续留在职场。

C36. 为了鼓励并支持更多的雇主,

a. 人力部决定为 两项津贴增加额外2亿3000万元的拨款。

b. 与此同时,我们也将帮助雇主分担年长员工公积金缴交率的增幅。

C37. 要让年长者,在黄金年华里, 还能实现在职场贡献的理想,退休后则能安享晚年,并非遥不可及。

C38. 只要劳资政三方、公司企业、以及年长者本身,能够齐心协力,我们一定能为新加坡的年长者,打造出一个充实、丰盛的黄金时代。


An inclusive and progressive workforce (SEPs/Contingent Workforce, women, PWDs)

a. Let me now signpost the direction for self-employed persons (SEPs).

C39. For well over a decade, our SEPs have consistently made up eight to 10 percent of the resident workforce.

a. They are not a homogenous group, and can be found in over 200 occupations.

C40. In recent years we have seen the rise of SEPs who use online matching platforms to get their work, or gig workers.

a. About 3% of our resident workforce could be considered “gig workers”.

b. They mostly worked as private hire car and taxi drivers, or drivers for delivery services.

c. Majority say they prefer to be self-employed.

C41. Because of their diversity, we should avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to supporting SEPs. Instead, we have three areas of focus.

C42. First, we will support SEPs who wish to switch to regular employment.

a. One such example is Mr. Nazry Zakaria, who transitioned from being a freelance project manager and set designer, to a Creative Strategist at Unearthed Productions. To pick up digital marketing skillsets for his job, Mr. Nazry particpated in WSG’s Professional Conversion Programme for Digital Advertising Professionals. His income is now more  stable and he has better opportunities for career development.

C43. Second, we have started to help SEPs better meet healthcare and retirement needs.

a. With the introduction of Medishield Life and Careshield Life, SEPs are generally well protected against major medical expenses even without employer-provided benefits. The  gap lies in the risk of income loss should illness prevent them from working, as SEPs do not have paid medical leave. This is why we worked with insurers to introduce  prolonged medical leave (PML) insurance. They now cover almost 40,000 SEP drivers and riders.

b. We also introduced the Contribute-As-You-Earn (or CAYE) scheme for SEPs providing services to government procurement entities. With CAYE, SEPs have a convenient  way to build up their MediSave balances.

(i) In 2020, the first year of implementation, about 95% of SEPs remained on CAYE, although they could have opted out.

(ii) About 4,000 SEPs made CAYE contributions.

(iii) They received close to $1 million in matched MediSave contributions from the government, as part of a one-off incentive to help SEPs transit to CAYE.

(iv) Nevertheless, we are aware that many SEPs had to defer their income and MediSave contributions. Hence, we will extend the qualifying period to receive matched  MediSave contributions for another year, till 31 Dec 2021, to provide more time for SEPs to fully benefit from this transition package.

(v) With the encouraging take-up of CAYE in the public sector, we will study if the scheme should be extended to SEPs serving the private sector. We will consult the relevant  industry stakeholders before doing so.

C44. The third area of focus is to find a better balance in the arrangements between “gig workers” and their intermediaries that deploy their services. As Mr. Patrick Tay and Mr.  Louis Chua had suggested, one way is to provide basic employment rights for SEPs.

C45. But this is not straightforward.

a. In Italy, for example, “gig workers” dependent on one buyer or intermediary for their work are categorised as dependent contractors and entitled to partial employment rights.  This provided added protection to the dependent contractors but also incentivised employers to reclassify regular employees as dependent contractors.

b. In California, the legislative moves have swung like a pendulum.

c. But as several MPs highlighted, the latest ruling by the UK Supreme Court may have turned the tide decisively towards recognising Uber drivers as “workers”.

C46. In this regard, we welcome the NTUC’s keen interest to strengthen representation of SEPs and freelancers.

a. In general, such workers can already form associations and be affiliated to NTUC. Examples include the National Taxi Association and the recently-announced National Delivery Champions Association. Collectively, about 47,500 SEPs are already part of the labour movement.

b. Likewise, in terms of work injuries, SEPs do have some protection. Key platform intermediaries like Grab, Gojek and Deliveroo, already extend free personal accident  insurance coverage to the SEPs who they place in jobs.

c. Nonetheless, we acknowledge Mr Pritam Singh’s point that coverage is not uniform and collective bargaining is still not available.

C47. In the Addendum to the President’s Address last year, we said that we would review the responsibilities of service-buyers and intermediaries to bring about a fairer and  more balanced relationship with their self-employed workers.

C48. In doing so, we will take into account the need to be fair yet practical, recognising the usefulness of work opportunities provided by the intermediaries, and the need to

secure better outcomes for workers.


A resilient foreign workforce

C49. Having covered the priorities of our local workforce, let me turn to our foreign workforce.

C50. The views raised by the Members on our foreign workforce fall into two broad clusters:

a. On one hand, Mr Edward Chia and Ms Cheng Li Hui suggested greater access to foreign manpower for some sectors, to address persistent shortages.

b. On the other hand, Mr Patrick Tay and Brother Abdul Samad emphasised localisation and strengthening the Singaporean core, which requires reducing reliance on foreign  manpower.

c. This is the tension that MOM grapples with continuously.

C51. Our fundamental objective is always to serve the interests of Singaporean workers.

a. Access to foreign workers is meant to help grow a larger economic pie than we otherwise can.

b. Therefore, the foreign workforce must act as a complement to our local workforce.

C52. At the Work Permit level, the Services sector is our baseline for foreign workforce policies, with a Dependency Ratio Ceiling or DRC of 35%. Services accounts for three  quarters of our workforce.

a. We already recognise that some sectors are less attractive to locals.

b. Manufacturing for example, has a DRC of 60% at the operators’ level.

c. Construction, Marine Shipyard and Process sectors get even more.

C53. There is a limit to how much further we can differentiate within Services.

a. The sub-sectors which lobby the hardest already hire the big majority of work permits in Services.

b. If we relaxed quotas for each one of them, it amounts to raising the overall DRC for Services.

c. Instead, as Ms Foo Mee Har has called for, we will focus on helping companies become more manpower-lean and strengthen their Singaporean core.

d. Many firms have already started on this journey; in the last three years, an average of 20,800 firms benefited annually through the Lean Enterprise Development Scheme.

C54. Meanwhile, periodic adjustments will continue to be made to the Local Qualifying Salary, to ensure that locals are not hired on a token salary in order to access foreign  worker quota.

a. We will hold off further increases this year to give firms time to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

C55. Over the last few years, we have also updated the S Pass policy.

a. We have made cuts to the S Pass sub-DRC in Services, Construction, Marine Shipyard and Process sectors.

b. As mentioned by DPM in his Budget speech, we will also reduce the S Pass sub-DRC in Manufacturing gradually, from 20% to 18% next year, and to 15% in 2023.

c. In addition, we raised the S Pass qualifying salary twice last year, and extended the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) job advertising requirement to cover S Passes to  ensure that locals are considered fairly for these jobs.

C56. Ms Hazel Poa expressed disappointment there were no more cuts other than for S passes in manufacturing.

a. She may not have been in Parliament for the last few years to know of all the adjustments we have made.

b. Nonetheless, I urge her to consider the points made by Mr. Liang Eng Hwa.

c. Whatever her criticism, the foreign workforce accounted for all of our employment contraction in 2020.

d. I won’t say foreign workforce policies alone made this happen but they certainly played a part.

C57. We will continue to review our S Pass levers — including the qualifying salary, quotas, and levies.

a. This will be done together with efforts to transform industries and upskill the local workforce.

b. Over this decade, employers should expect further changes to S Pass rules to be phased in.

c. I encourage them to start making the efforts to strengthen your local talent pipeline at this level.

C58. At the Employment Pass (EP) level, our aim is two-fold.

C59. First, we will continue to ensure that foreign professionals complement our local PME workforce.

a. The salary threshold is by no means a perfect gatekeeper of quality, but it is easy to understand and administer.

b. We raised the qualifying salary for EP holders twice last year and will explore possible refinements to how we do so.

c. Ms Janet Ang and Mr Saktiandi Supaat who spoke about the worldwide shortages in tech and digital skills will understand why we do not set a quota on EPs.

d. Doing so will limit our ability to compete for the most cutting-edge investments and sophisticated activities, and hurt Singaporeans’ prospects in the longer term.

e. In any case, as Mr. Melvin Yong and Mr Sharael Taha pointed out, knowledge workers can increasingly work from anywhere!

f. This must temper our expectations regarding the usefulness of further EP controls like levies, which Mr. Leong Mun Wai has advocated.

C60. Second, we will ensure employers practice fair hiring and improve the diversity of their foreign PMET workforce.

a. It is wrong for employers to disregard qualified local candidates because of discrimination.

b. MOS Gan will say more in her speech.

C61. To comments by Brother Abdul Samad, Mr Saktiandi Supaat and Mr Pritam Singh regarding the Capability Transfer Programme (CTP),

a. DPM Heng noted that it is one of many to facilitate capability development.

C62. In general, we do not depend on any single programme to achieve better employment outcomes.

a. Other agencies besides WSG have introduced or enhanced complementary capability development schemes.

b. For example, ESG has the Global Ready Talent Programme; it supports Singapore enterprises in building young talent pipeline through internships and overseas work  opportunities.

c. All the programmes that have helped to recruit, reskill or redeploy local PMETs, reduced the need to rely on foreign professionals.

C63. The CTP remains a useful complement to sector-specific schemes, as well as broad-based schemes like LEDS and JGI.

a. We have committed about $5 million so far under CTP, and employers have to co-fund part of the costs.

b. The supported projects span over 20 sectors, and we welcome more businesses to use it.

c. As announced, we will extend it to September 2024.

C64. For consistency with recent work pass moves, we will also regularise the work arrangements of Dependant’s Pass (DP) holders.

a. The vast majority of DP holders do not work during their stay in Singapore.

b. DP holders who have sought employment in Singapore via a Letter of Consent (LOC) constitute only about 1% of all Work Pass holders.

c. From 1 May 2021, DP holders who wish to work during their stay in Singapore will be directed to apply for a relevant work pass, such as an EP, S Pass or Work Permit.

d. We will provide sufficient time for existing DP holders working on an LOC, as well as their employers, to transit to this new arrangement. Most of them meet prevailing work  pass criteria. Those that do not will have to cease working in Singapore.


D. Supporting Business Transformation, Underpinned by Tripartism

Enabling businesses to succeed

D1. Several members have asked for more support for workforce transformation.

D2. Transformation should serve a purpose to create better jobs, better skills, and therefore better pay and better prospects.

a. All of these cannot be achieved without better businesses.

b. It is why workforce transformation and business transformation go hand in hand.

D3. Many studies have attempted to predict jobs of the future.

a. They are useful signposts

b. And help us create the conditions to keep businesses thriving. For example, we invest heavily to build up digital access and capabilities. Minister Iswaran said quite a lot  about this yesterday.

c. However, the extent and manner in which the future jobs materialise, will depend on the entrepreneurial zeal of our businesses, to disrupt the status quo and seize new  opportunities.

D4. To sustain better pay over time, there’s no short cut to raising productivity.

a. This is rarely achieved by just up-skilling or re-skilling the workers.

b. At the firm level, work processes must change and jobs redesigned. Otherwise, the new skills have limited impact. In Chinese, we say, “英雄无用武之地”.

c. At the industry level, business norms must evolve and innovations embraced.

D5. Again, these decisions depend very much on the dynamism and foresight of our business leaders, as pointed out by Mr Henry Kwek and Ms Janet Ang. a. It includes dealing with the threats and opportunities of remote working within and across national borders.

D6. Strengthening business capabilities and promoting innovation comes within the purview of our sectoral agencies.

a. MOM has a keen interest too, because the future of our workforce depends very much on it.

D7. On our part, we will pay particular attention to SMEs – a point which Ms Yeo Wan Ling has raised

a. They deserve a fair chance to succeed.

b. Our partners, SNEF and many Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs) tell us that SMEs face bigger difficulties in their quest to transform.

c. This is understandable.

D8. We will help in several ways.

D9. First, how to transform jobs?

D10. A good example is our logistics sector.

a. In 2019, an interagency team including Economic Development Board (EDB), Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and WSG studied the impact of Industry 4.0 (I4.0) on the logistics  sector in the next three to five years.

b. The study systematically identified how 56 existing job roles will evolve, and 12 new job roles will emerge.

c. It turns out, more than half of existing logistics jobs will experience a medium to high degree of change.

d. Logistics companies are taking reference from the findings to invest in new systems and reskill their staff.

e. For a warehouse supervisor, the job role can evolve from manually recording inventory to operating automated storage and retrieval systems.

f. WSG supports these through existing Professional Conversion Programmes, as well as the new Place-and-Train programme for Supply Chain and Logistics Coordinators.

D11. We will set aside close to $10 million over the next two years for more of such Jobs Transformation Maps (JTMs).

a. 3 JTMs have been completed and we have plans for another 12 .

b. They will help TACs and SMEs alike with their workforce planning.

D12. In addition, we expanded the Productivity Solutions Grant to also support job re-design.

a. There is a panel of pre-approved consultancy firms.

b. They bridge the knowledge gaps for companies to develop and implement job redesign solutions.

c. This year, we raised the subsidy to 80%.

d. I urge businesses to take advantage of the enhanced support before it expires in a year.

D13. Second, how to help SMEs attract talents?

D14. Close to 31,000 SME employers have benefitted through the JGI and SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package.

D15. We will help companies looking for local talent to also get professional assistance.

a. We recently appointed five best-in-class employment agencies under a new Human Capital Partnership programme.

b. They help employers consider talented locals they may sometimes overlook, by focussing on their transferrable skills and relevant experience.

D16. We also have the P-Max programme which has placed over 7,800 PMETs into 7,300 SMEs in the last five years.

D17. We want our SMEs to succeed. Ultimately, their ability to transform themselves will spur our workforce to be transformed too.


E. Conclusion: Our competitive advantage in tripartism

E1. Mr Chairman, I have outlined MOM’s priorities this year.

a. In the short term, we will need to secure the rebound by shoring up hiring of locals.

b. In the medium- and longer-term, we must help every segment of the workforce emerge stronger, including our migrant and foreign domestic workers.

c. We will support our businesses to transform, especially our SMEs, so that we can succeed together.

d. We will keep strengthening fairness and support for workers.

E2. Let me conclude by emphasising the importance of tripartism again.

E3. Few countries have the extraordinary advantage we do.

a. Its value was reinforced when COVID-19 struck.

b. Without the reservoir of trust between the tripartite partners, many issues would not have been resolved quickly.

c. In Luxembourg, we saw trouble.

d. In France, unions called for a nationwide strike to denounce the French Government’s pandemic response, disrupting essential services for many citizens.

E4. In Singapore, both workers and employers accepted the many painful adjustments we made.

a. NTUC sprung into action. Its Job Security Council helped many workers retain their jobs or move into new jobs.

b. Employers too helped to preserve a strong Singaporean core, even if they had to downsize.

E5. Once again, I thank members for your many suggestions and support to MOM.

a. The COVID-19 pandemic did not just test the resilience of our workforce.

b. Tripartism was also tested, and we are emerging stronger.