2022 was a challenging year for Singapore workers, employers, and jobseekers. We had to juggle inflation and supply chain issues rising due to the turmoil in Europe, and the aftermath of Covid-19 as our country reopened economically.
At his recent Budget 2023 speech in Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, who is also our Finance Minister, shared plans to build up local workers’ career resilience and raise wages.
On the third day of the Committee of Supply (COS) 2023 debates in Parliament, Minister for Trade and Industry (MTI) Gan Kim Yong said the Singapore government would continue efforts to raise local workers’ productivity, to ensure Singapore continues to punch above its weight on the global stage.
Ultimately, our workers and businesses must be ready for transformation if Singapore is to achieve its long-term economic goals set out in the Singapore Economy 2030 vision, Minister Gan added.
“In the face of rising costs, biting resource constraints and a more challenging international environment, this is the only viable path to long-term growth and success.”
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He adds that if Singaporean workers want higher wages, matching that with upgraded skills was crucial.
“While higher wages add to costs for businesses, the key is to ensure that productivity increases support higher wages. In this way, both businesses and workers will benefit.”
Minister Gan’s comments were followed by further announcements on the fourth day of COS 2023 in Parliament by Manpower Minister Tan See Leng, Senior Minister of State (SMS) for Defence and Manpower Zaqy Mohamad, Senior Minister of State for Manpower Koh Poh Koon, and Minister of State (MOS) for Manpower Gan Siow Huang.
They introduced various initiatives and strategies in 2023 that will continue the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) COS priorities to “seize opportunities, strengthen support, and secure better workplaces” for Singaporean workers.
Here are some of the key takeaways below.
Singaporeans need to seriously consider their career health and resilience
As DPM Wong has previously mentioned, we’re likely to have a few careers in our lifetimes. But are Singaporeans starting to adopt different strategies for different life stages and embrace lifelong learning?
This is where the Forward Singapore exercise, launched in 2022, comes in.
Its Empower: Economy and Jobs pillar aims to help and encourage all Singaporean workers to consider and cultivate lifelong employability in a more competitive and uncertain world.
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Lead by Minister Tan, SMS Koh, and NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng, it aims to explore how our country and workforce can:
- Strengthen our local businesses to create good jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans
- Groom local talents to seize leadership opportunities
- Support multiple pathways of career progress and give Singaporeans the ability to take charge of their career health
- Support our workforce to remain resilient and adaptable and help them bounce back from setbacks
- Provide peace of mind in retirement for all, with greater support for the vulnerable
In these challenging economic times, Minister Tan stressed the importance for Singaporean workers to proactively manage their own career health.
“Better career health is key to helping our workers move up the career ladder, stay current and employable, or switch to a new job that better matches their skills and interests.”
He added: “Just like physical health, career health has three aspects.
- Awareness: We must take regular health checks to know our health status and risks.
- Healthy habits: Information is only meaningful if we act on them. We know that to stay healthy, we must maintain good health habits. Similarly, we need to set longer-term career goals and take pre-emptive steps towards achieving them.
- Bouncing back from setbacks: Sometimes, things will not go our way. But if we have kept up our health, we can get back on our feet more quickly, with some help!”
CareersFinder: A new feature on the MyCareersFuture job portal
Advances in job search and matching technologies, using data and artificial intelligence, can help Singaporean jobseekers get more personalised jobs and skills insights.
These can also improve the jobs that jobseekers get matched to, allowing us to better plan what career steps to take – from taking a course to upskill or making a career switch – to progress in our careers.
As such, Minister Tan announced the beta launch of a new jobs and skills recommender named CareersFinder, which will be featured on Workforce Singapore’s MyCareersFuture website.
An integration of upskilling and jobs digital services, it meets feedback from local jobseekers and employers to consolidate services and information for finding a job and skills upgrading, which are complementary and often come hand-in-hand.
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Minister Tan elaborated: “CareersFinder is the first step to try and integrate both functions.
“It uses data on skills adjacencies and job transitions in the labour market to help jobseekers identify potential career opportunities, personalised based on their individual profiles, and recommend suitable training programmes to help them achieve their career goals.
“CareersFinder is a new feature which will only become more powerful as the data grows. We will continue to enhance it over time to make it more responsive to jobseekers’ needs.”
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Making “hands-on” work as valued as “head” work
DPM Wong shared the importance of ‘hand-and-heart work’ to Singapore at an economic policy forum in 2022: “We must move away from preconceptions that academic success should be prized above all others.
“Instead, we must respect those who labour with their hands and hearts and confer upon them the same status as other paths.”
Ultimately in Singapore, people will be recognised for their skills, given opportunities to advance and rewarded for their efforts as long as they work hard and continually upskill no matter their path.
Minister Tan reiterated the point, adding our labour market must also provide multiple pathways to success to cater to different interests and inclinations.
“Hands-on” jobs – or crafts required to make something well or fix a complex machine – need deep skills, and are just as important for our economy to prosper.”
He then revealed that MOM is partnering with National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) to look into how we can redesign such jobs with better starting salaries, a clearer skills ladder, and other ways to attract, retain, and reward workers in these jobs.
“Over time, we can shift the prospects and perceptions of such jobs and offer attractive career pathways for skilled trades, which remain indispensable in our future economy”, Minister Tan said. He shared that more details on this initiative will be revealed at a later date.
Jobs and skills initiatives to support platform and older workers
In 2022, WSG and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute’s 24 SGUnited Jobs & Skills Centres across Singapore were able to assist and place 3,400 jobseekers.
Along with WSG’s Career Conversion Programmes (CCPs) that provide salary and training support to employers to reskill new workers, these centres will support lower-income platform workers who wish to transit to other career sectors and industries, said SMS Koh.
The SG-United Mid-Career Pathways programme provides an additional structured pathway for mature and senior workers to gain industry exposure and training, whilst allowing employers to assess their job fit.
SMS Koh shared that employers who hire mature and senior workers also receive higher salaries and training support under the CCPs to reskill for new occupations.
He also elaborated further on two schemes DPM Wong announced in his Budget 2023 speech: the Senior Employment Credit (SEC) and the Part-time Re-employment Grant (PTRG).
The SEC helps offset part of employers’ wage costs of hiring senior workers, and has benefitted almost 100,000 employers that have hired more than 461,000 senior workers since it was introduced.
The PTRG works in tandem by increasing the availability of part-time re-employment to senior workers in participating companies.
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Both will be extended to 2025, according to SMS Koh.
“To date, more than 5,700 employers have successfully applied for the PTRG and are committed to implementing progressive re-employment policies such as offering part-time roles, which we expect to benefit more than 45,000 senior workers.”
He also revealed further policies supporting our senior workers below:
- The PTRG extension will include additional criteria for employers to offer part-time re-employment to encourage them to put in place more progressive workplace practices for senior workers.
- Singapore employers will have to adopt structured career planning for their mature and senior employees aged 45 and above. This entails mapping out future business needs and identifying the skills that mature and senior workers need to develop to grow with their companies, thereby supporting Singapore senior workers’ employability and career longevity.
SMS Koh also reiterated the need for career mobility to be part and parcel for workers at all life stages, including senior workers.
“Senior workers themselves, too, play a key role in making this process a success, by being open and proactive in embracing such opportunities, and ready to pivot to new job roles as they emerge.”
Supporting Singaporean women in our workforce
In June 2022, WSG launched an initiative called herCareer, which includes employment facilitation programmes and services that support women jobseekers looking to re-join the workforce, including walk-in interviews to meet with hiring employers on the spot.
These initiatives have had positive effects, and MOS Gan revealed in Parliament that “over the last three years, WSG has placed more than 78,000 women jobseekers across its programmes and services.”
Despite the pandemic, Singapore’s employment rate for women aged 25 to 64 has grown over the past two decades, from 73% in 2020 to 76% in 2022.
For caregivers of persons with disabilities (PwDs) who wish to return to the workforce, MOS Gan shared: “Caregivers can tap on Workforce Singapore’s suite of employment facilitation programmes and services.
“For example, caregivers who need job search assistance can visit WSG’s Careers Connect and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute’s career centres for career advisory and guidance.”
“Those who need a skills top-up can apply for the CCPs, which will also provide higher support for caregivers who have not been working for at least six months.”
Training support for lower-income workers
Last but certainly not least: from July 2023, workers aged 30 or older and earning $2,500 or below each month, will be eligible for the Workfare Skills Support (WSS).
The scheme currently covers those aged 35 and above, earning no more than $2,300 monthly.
According to SMS Zaqy, an estimated 70,000 more local workers will now qualify for the WSS.
He adds that lowering the eligibility age allows more lower-wage workers to upskill earlier in their careers.
“Workfare is one of the key pillars of the government’s support for our lower-wage workers. The WSS is an important scheme that supports the upskilling of lower-wage workers, to improve their employability and earnings.”
“It has been successful in supporting lower-wage workers in achieving more impactful employment outcomes. This is why we will be enhancing it from July this year.”
The cash award will also increase for those who fully qualify for WSS. From July, the award will be $800, up from $500.
This will encourage lower-wage workers to “undertake deeper and more sustained training”, leading to higher salaries over time.
Featured image credits: MCI Youtube