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When was the last time you fretted about finding a job, or even keeping it? I’d wager a guess – pretty recently. The economy is changing fast and with it, the job landscape.

Job applications have always been tough and with retrenchment on the rise, there is nothing exciting about job hunts. So what exactly can we do?

We sat down with Labour MP Melvin Yong to talk about the insecurities of the future job landscape.

MP Melvin Yong / Image Credit: Samantha Tay / Vulcan Post

According to MP Yong, there are 3 types of insecurities. He reiterated this in his Budget Debate speech, but here’s the gist:

1. The Known-Known

This category is about the technology we know exists, as well as the impact that they have on jobs. Think the early replacing of bank tellers by ATMs, and the automation of checkout counters at fast food joints such as McDonald’s.

2. The Known-Unknown

Here lies technology that is already a reality but we are not sure when and how exactly it will affect the future job landscape. Driverless technology is a perfect example of this.

Trials of autonomous vehicles are also currently taking place at one-north and autonomous buses will soon be shuttling NTU students around campus.

However, it remains to be seen how they would mass-replace driving jobs.

3. The Unknown-Unknown

This is where the going gets tough, and in MP Yong’s words “don’t ask me for examples, because your guess would be as good as mine.”  

Technology is changing rapidly and constantly. This makes predicting the next revolutionary (and disruptive!) technology very tricky. Uber and Grab are both examples of Unknown-Unknown.

They are mobile applications providing new transport options for commuters, but their growing presence has significantly disrupted the traditional taxi industry!

Image Credit: Vulcan Post

How Do We Bulletproof Ourselves?

It’s a straightforward answer – everyone must continually up-skill to stay competitive.

“First, our workers need to remain competitive amidst the changes. We need to embrace the concept of lifelong learning, continuously train and up-skill ourselves, and start preparing for future jobs even before the current one becomes obsolete.”

Interviewing MP Melvin Yong / Image Credit: NTUC

The goal is to cultivate a culture of continuous learning so that Singaporeans will not be blindsided by new tech.

We may not be able to help job obsolescence, but we must learn and be able to adapt to the new tech and jobs that will be created.

Companies often cite manpower as an important asset, and MP Yong espouses the importance of investing in this asset so as to enhance its value.

On the perennial discussion of lifelong learning, at the end of the day the solution is easier said than done. That is why the spirit of tripartism is also more important than ever as it lays the foundation for a multi-prong approach to up-skilling.

Of Tripartism And Retreats

On 20 January 2017, a 70-strong group comprising key representatives from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) convened at Orchid Country Club for the second Tripartite Retreat.

This year, aside from the three traditional tripartite partners, senior officials from the Ministry of Trade & Industry as well as Ministry of Education also attended the full-day event. These retreats are not open to the media as the objective is for participants to share honestly – no holds barred!

Tripartite Retreat 2016 / Image Credit: NTUC

In the morning, each of the 3 tripartite partners (NTUC, MOM and SNEF) took turns to present their challenges and initiatives for the future. These were then discussed and debated during the afternoon session.

Here, MP Yong laughs that thankfully, there were “no tables to bang, but there were certainly louder voices all around”.

And as MP Yong shares, this is not a bad thing.

“It’s OK even if there are raised voices. It is always important to be able to talk frankly with one another. After deliberating and understanding the concerns from all parties, we must work to find solutions, and we are committed to achieve the outcomes that we agreed upon.”

Tripartism may sound abstract, but it is actually one of Singapore’s long-standing, and most important competitive advantages.

MP Yong shares that anyone can come up with a good economic plan, but the secret lies in our ability to implement it. And here, our ability to work together to settle disputes through peaceful collaboration is crucial, regardless of differences in motivation and prerogatives.

Retreat Takeaways

So what can the average Singaporean expect from these takeaways?

1. Targeted Messaging

MP Yong brings up sectoral tripartism here, i.e. tripartism that “is one level down”. 

To illustrate his point, he asks us one question: Have you seen those crime prevention pamphlets warning against leaving valuables in the car? 

Answering this was awkward, but it gave him the chance to explain further. He shared that as a police commander, he got his team to think about targeted messaging.

Students were roped in to survey HDB carparks and take photos of valuables left visibly in the cars. The photos were attached to a crime prevention advisory and sent to the careless car-owners.

The effect, as expected, was a lot stronger than a generic warning poster.

That is also what sectoral tripartism is about – working with companies to customise collaborative strategies rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all solution.

NTUC Secretary General Chan Chun Sing, SNEF President Robert Yap and Minister for Manpower Lim Swee Say / Image Credit: NTUC

2. More Help For Tomorrow’s Unemployed

Besides sectoral tripartism, NTUC is also moving towards helping workers remain competitive in the ever-changing job landscape.

The Future Jobs, Skills and Training (FJST) initiative aims at identifying high growth sectors and developing relevant training programmes, with the goal of helping workers prepare for future jobs.

Navigating The Job Landscape

It is important that Singapore foster a continuous learning culture, as well as a collaborative mindset, MP Yong emphasised.

Singapore’s strong tripartism has helped it maintain stability and industrial peace for many decades, and tripartism will continue to be important to ensure that companies and workers remain competitive. This is ensure that Singapore can continue to attract better jobs in the ever-changing global economy.

And so if tripartism is still unfamiliar to you, perhaps it’s time to change that.

It is after all, Singapore’s “secret ingredient”.

The Labour Movement wants Singaporeans to be aware of the volatility of the job landscape and that strong Tripartite relations will help them navigate the ever-changing global economy.

Featured Image Credit: NTUC

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© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)