Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Manpower
Our manpower policies aim to help Singaporeans secure good jobs, raise their skills and expertise, and enjoy sustained increases in their incomes in the coming decade. We are putting full effort into helping vulnerable workers improve their livelihoods. We will also ensure fair employment practices and safety at the workplace, and harmonious industrial relations.
We are shifting to quality, rather than increases in the workforce, as the basis of growth. Our resident workforce will grow more slowly, and the proportion of younger workers too will decline. We therefore have to focus our efforts on improving quality, in every job and for every age, as the basis for Singapore’s economic dynamism and for sustained increases in Singaporeans’ incomes.
We must tread a balanced path in our manpower policies. Our economy must remain welcoming to both businesses and talent from abroad, so as to create and sustain good jobs and meet the rising aspirations and capabilities of our people. We will at the same time seek to keep the overall share of foreigners in the workforce at no higher than one-third over the long term, and help businesses to adjust to the reality of a tight labour market. We will also work with our tripartite partners to ensure that Singaporeans have ample opportunities to develop their careers, and remain at the core of a diverse, globally competitive workforce.
Towards High Skills in Every Job
With the concerted efforts of our tripartite partners, we are striving to achieve 2-3% per annum growth in productivity over the decade. This is essential if we are to increase real incomes for Singaporeans broadly, including those with low incomes. The National Productivity and Continuing Education Council (NPCEC) will coordinate and provide strong support for this national productivity effort. The $2 billion National Productivity Fund is helping industries implement specific roadmaps to improve productivity through market and business development, automation, better use of IT, job and process re-design and training.
We must promote a passion for lifelong learning. We will strengthen our Continuing Education and Training (CET) system to ensure the skills of our workers remain current and lay the foundation for further career progression. When completed in 2013, the two national CET campuses will provide opportunities for training and upgrading in all types of jobs, and comprehensive career services. We will also progressively raise the quality and standards of CET courses and trainers.
We will extend the coverage of our CET system to address the learning needs of all segments of our workforce, including those of Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMETs), who comprise slightly over half our resident workforce and will increase further in importance. Through the Skills Training for Excellence Programme (STEP), we will equip PMETs with both specialized and broad-based horizontal skills so as to enhance their career prospects and competitiveness.
Fostering Inclusive Growth
Helping our more vulnerable workers contribute to and share in Singapore’s progress will remain a key priority. We will take further measures to help them upgrade, secure good jobs and achieve higher incomes. We will review our Workfare schemes, which are central to helping lower income, older Singaporeans stay at work and enjoy better wages. We will also encourage companies to adopt responsible outsourcing practices, so as to ensure that the basic employment rights of low-wage workers are protected.
Singaporeans are enjoying better health. Most desire to stay active and work longer if they can. With longer life expectancy too, the prospect of outliving one’s savings is a worry. We are addressing both these challenges.
To help older workers better prepare for their retirement years, the Retirement and Re-employment Act will come into force in January 2012. We will also assist companies to recruit, retain and re-employ older workers, with outreach and incentives to redesign jobs and work arrangements to suit the needs and preferences of an older workforce.
10. Together with our tripartite partners, we will review CPF contribution rates of older workers. CPF LIFE, which is mandatory for cohorts turning 55 in and after 2013, will provide members with an income for life. We will continue to improve the product features in CPF LIFE to ensure that it meets Singaporeans’ retirement needs.
Promoting Harmonious, Fair and Safe Workplaces
Tripartism is a key competitive advantage for Singapore, providing the basis for long term investments, growth and job creation. We will renew and strengthen trust and co-operation amongst the tripartite partners and work together to effectively address the manpower challenges described above.
We will also work with our tripartite partners to develop guidelines that promote fair merit-based opportunities for Singaporeans, both in hiring practices and career development.
We will ensure that our system of enforcement and penalties provides sufficient deterrence to any attempt to circumvent our foreign manpower policies. We will be amending the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA) to strengthen enforcement, and hold employers and other stakeholders more accountable for the basic employment standards and well-being of foreign workers.
We are also conducting a holistic review of our foreign domestic worker (FDW) policies to improve the entry and recruitment of FDWs, and the experience of both employers and FDWs. We will also press on with our efforts to raise overall safety and health standards and reduce workplace fatality rate to less than 1.8 per 100,000 workers by 2018.
Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam