Every year in May, it is a custom for our Prime Minister to deliver his May Day Rally, and this year is no exception. Held at D’Marquee, Downtown East this year, the May Day Rally saw PM Lee sharing several important notes with regards to the current state of the labour workforce in Singapore.
For the benefit of those of you who may have missed the broadcast, here are the key points that PM Lee highlighted.
Singapore Is Not Spared From The Global Economy Downturn
Most of us know now that the current global economy is on a slowdown, and this has many countries on edge. Singapore is no exception, and we join the major economic blocs, whom are facing problems too. Port, Marine, Oil and Gas and Electronics were cited by PM Lee as examples of industries that have been harder hit. On the flip-side, Infocomm Technology, Finance and Insurance, Healthcare and some others have reasons for optimism, with investments and job growth. As these changes are driven by globalization and technology, it is something all countries go through, not just Singapore.
People Are Still Losing Jobs
In Singapore, we are still seeing ongoing retrenchments. Those suffering from the fallout may have difficulty finding another job due to mismatched skill-sets and expectations, with older PMETs (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians) a major concern. While job growth has slowed, there are still more jobs than job seekers, with a shortage of workers.
PM Lee also pointed out that our unemployment is still low and Singaporeans are less likely to be retrenched as compared to foreigners.
Changing Landscape Of Industries
The exponential growth of online-based businesses is rivaling traditional establishments. Taobao is changing the way we buy things, Airbnb, the way we spend our holidays, and Uber, the way we travel around places. Businesses are encouraged to improve upon their existing infrastructure to entice consumers back. At the same time, the government will be introducing measures to ensure fair competition between old and new business models.
Jobs Are Not As There Were Before
As the economy shifts into emerging industries, jobs are lost due to forlorn businesses. These jobs are disappearing because companies are moving towards exclusive usage of robots and software, and while in other cases, these companies are moving out to countries with lower costs. Yes, they are jobs available in the new industries, just that the job-seekers who are applying for them do not match the requirements needed by these new industries.
Here’s What Being Done By The Government
The government has put in place several helplines where both employers and workers can seek financial assistance from. PM Lee shares what is available during the rally.
1. Head-start For Students
Preparation of workers for emerging industries is underway with schools being the logical place to start. Students from the various universities, polytechnic, and ITE are being educated in soft skills, including to better prepare them for the workforce, on top of the industry-relevant skills needed. As a result, we have seen a rise of starting salaries across the board.
2. Programmes To Aid Mid-Career Switch
According to PM Lee, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has three support avenues to help those who are undergoing a mid career switch. There’s the Career Support Programme (CSP), where employers receive wage support from the government to give chances to PMETs who have been retrenched mid-career. Other than that, the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) and the Place and Train Programme are also in place, where employees can receive re-training courses with the training fees paid for, as well as receive a partial amount of your wages. This is to lessen the burden of transition while also helping to defray cost of living.
3. Reputable Re-education
Perhaps one of the most important pointer from PM Lee’s announcement is this: The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is partnering with local universities to help mid-career workers attain new skills. This mirrors the existing partnership the NTUC has with the polytechnics and ITEs.
Under the new partnership with local universities, NTU will be the first to work with NTUC, and NTU will offer continuous education through the use of technology enabled learning (TEL). These short courses will be suited for the working population to help them keep abreast of new technologies and developments. Lastly, SkillsFuture is to be further expanded, in due time, to include more schemes.
Singaporeans Are Well Taken Care Of
Concluding his speech, PM Lee shared that workers around the world are worried not just for their jobs, and also affordable housing and healthcare, as well as retirement. However, the key difference between Singapore and everywhere else is that there are schemes in place for workers in Singapore to help tackle all these problems.
“We may be in a time of change, but I can reassure you honestly that if we work together, we can overcome all these problems. The Government is ready, the Labour Movement is ready. The people need to be ready. And the people are ready. You have supported our programmes. And you have voted for them, and for the team to work with you. With your strong mandate we are able to implement them vigorously, and improve your lives.”
If you would like to re-watch the May Day Rally, make your way over to the Prime Minister’s Office Youtube channel here.