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Opening Statement at 17th Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting

Dr Tan See Leng Minister for Manpower, Raffles City Convention Centre

  1. The next segment is on the Opening Addresses of the 17th Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting. With your indulgence, I would like to say a few personal words of welcome, before delving into the focus of this year’s APRM.


  2. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure to meet with quite a few of my esteemed colleagues at the International Labour Conference in June and the ASEAN Labour Ministers’ meeting in October. I am glad to see you here again today and I extend my warmest welcome to all of you. It is our honour to host the APRM, as the Asia Pacific and Arab regions come together for the first time since the pandemic.


  3. I hope that all of you, our fellow delegates, will enjoy your stay in Singapore and have the chance to visit some of our attractions over the next few days. This evening, I look forward to hosting a dinner reception at Gardens by the Bay, which is one of the world’s top horticultural destinations that is home to flora from five different continents.


  4. The focus of this year’s APRM is on human-centred recovery from COVID-19. Before we begin our discussions on this important topic, it is worth reviewing what has happened in the world of work since the last APRM in 2016.


  5. It has been an eventful six years. Countries all over, particularly in the region had set out ambitious plans to prepare for the Future of Work, in response to rapid technology advancement, disruptions to business models and changing workforce demographics. Then COVID-19 hit us. Many countries faced unprecedented economic slowdowns and labour disruptions. In our region, the drastic reduction in economic activity led to strong concerns that an entire generation of workers would be scarred by unemployment and stagnant wages. Now, just as we prepare to emerge from the pandemic, inflation, supply chain disruptions and geo-political uncertainty threaten to make achieving a human-centred recovery much more challenging.

  6. Nevertheless, the fact that tripartite leaders from all around the region are gathered here today gives me great hope that, together, we can surmount one of the major challenges of our lifetimes.


  7. And the ILO plays an integral role in this, by setting out a clear global strategy that unites us with a common purpose and vison, anchored on the principle of tripartite collaboration and social dialogue.


  8. Singapore, like many other countries, took guidance from the ILO on how we can best respond to this crisis. We focused on saving jobs, supporting both workers and businesses, and protecting livelihoods.


  9. In keeping with the strong emphasis that the ILO places on tripartism, we were fortunate to be able to rely on the strong relationship that our tripartite partners – the Government, the Labour Movement and Employers – have built over the decades.


  10. By working closely with our tripartite partners, we were able to introduce measures to save as many jobs as possible. Where jobs unfortunately cannot be saved, tripartite partners worked tirelessly together to ensure that retrenchments were carried out responsibly, and that displaced workers are properly supported. The Government did our part by expanding our skills development programmes, so that workers can pick up new skills and prepare themselves for new opportunities when the pandemic subsides. Now, as we look to the future, our tripartite partners are similarly working hand in hand to see how we can continue to transform both our businesses and workforce to adapt to a new economic environment.


  11. None of this would have been possible without the strong trust between the labour movement, employers and the Government. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ms Mary Liew and Dr Robert Yap for their strong support over many years. They are the leaders of the labour movement and the employers’ group in Singapore respectively, and I am honoured that they are also Vice-Chairs for this APRM.


  12. While the task that stands before us collectively is challenging, and there is great diversity in our regions, there is no better time and no better platform than the APRM for regional tripartite representatives to engage in dialogue, and chart a path to navigate the uncertainties that lie ahead.


  13. Over the next few days, we will learn much from each other, even as we discuss the ILO’s plans. With strong partnership amongst the Government, Employer and Worker groups, I am confident we will forge a clear path towards a human-centred recovery from COVID-19.


  14. I look forward to a series of fruitful and productive discussion during the plenary sessions.