- While Singapore’s economy is still doing ok, serious challenges are on the horizon
- More support to local workers to reskill and upskill, even for those who have lost jobs
- The Majulah Package includes an “Earn and Save” bonus, allowing senior workers to further build up their CPF savings while in the workforce
Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong delivered his National Day Rally speech on 20 August 2023 at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) Headquarters.
During his speech, he gave an insight into the broader challenges that Singaporean companies and workers will face moving forwards in the post-Covid international environment and shared how the global economic order is fraying.
“Globalisation is weakening. Supply chains are splitting up. Countries are layering on multiple protectionist measures,” he said.
“This hurts all countries, but especially small, open trading nations like ourselves.”
Thankfully, the Singapore economy is still currently reasonably healthy, as PM Lee revealed expectations are that we will have positive economic growth this year.
He added: “Hopefully, we will avoid a recession. Inflation is, at last, coming down, but it will probably stay higher than what we were used to.
“(But) the Government will continue to support you. We will weather this storm together.”
More support for workers to stay ahead of the game
PM Lee shared his belief that despite the dark clouds, the world still offers many opportunities for those who dare to seize them and challenged Singaporean workers to do so.
As it stands, many industries and roles are becoming digitalised, and upskilling for Singaporean workers will be helpful whether or not they intend to enter traditional tech roles.
PM Lee empathised that the downside of these job marketplace shifts is anxiety amongst local workers that their jobs could be lost as trends shift, often due to automation or artificial intelligence.
“We can certainly expect more job disruptions. More of our workers will be affected by such disruptions and may lose their jobs several times throughout their careers,” said PM Lee.
“(But) the Government will give more support to workers, to help you adapt and upskill, to stay ahead of the game.”
While existing schemes such as the SkillsFuture Career Transition Programme and Workforce Singapore’s Career Conversion Programme do help workers learn new skills and move to different industries, PM admitted local workers facing financial pressures could find it hard to take up such opportunities.
As such, new schemes are being looked at to offer financial support for workers who lose their jobs, allowing them to upgrade their skills as they job search.
“It will be a temporary safety net to help you meet immediate needs, to free you to upskill and train, as you prepare yourself for a good long-term job.
“So long as you are willing to make an effort, the Government will go the extra mile to help you!”
This scheme is still being fine-tuned, and it was also announced more details would be shared when the Forward SG initiative concludes with a report later in 2023.
He also gave a shoutout to mothers looking to rejoin the workforce, highlighting the career journey of Nur Asyura Senin, 26, who worked as an administrative assistant at a construction company before leaving the workforce for four years to care for her children.
When she wanted to return to the workforce, she was interested in switching to roles in dentistry, and enrolled in Mendaki’s Women@Work programme in 2022.
She was also assisted by a career coach, who helped her map out a career plan and suggested suitable courses.
This led Asyura to use her SkillsFuture credits to get a certificate in basic dental assisting and a full-time job as a dental surgery assistant at a clinic, even as she was undergoing courses.
PM Lee lauded Asyura’s efforts and said: “I hope more mothers will follow Asyura’s example! The Government will support you, and I hope your families, too, will give you their full support.”
Manpower Minister Tan See Leng elaborated further on the temporary financial support for retrenched workers in an interview with the Straits Times following PM Lee’s National Day Rally speech.
He said it should not be seen as unemployment insurance, but rather assistance to give those who lose their jobs time to figure out their next career step that will be a good fit.
“You shouldn’t think of it as unemployment insurance but more of re-employment support: to nudge you in a right way, for you to also refocus, for you to also repurpose, and at the same time, for you to not settle (for) anything that comes along the way,” he said, and added that local workers can maintain their “career health” via personalised jobs and skills recommendations on MyCareersFuture.
Senior workers get a boost to stay in the workforce
He also revealed a new package to encourage Singaporeans who are 50 and above this year (born in 1973 or earlier) to stay in the workforce as long as they can, named the Majulah Package.
PM Lee said: “It will benefit those with lower incomes and less wealth. The support will be tiered, depending on your income and your CPF savings.
The key highlight of the Majulah Package for senior Singaporean workers would be its “Earn and Save” bonus, which allows local workers to further build up their CPF savings while in the workforce.
He said: “Most Young Seniors (those currently in their 50’s and 60’s) are still working and have some years to go before retirement.
“We encourage you to continue working as long as you can. Lower and middle-income workers will get a CPF bonus of up to $1,000 a year, depending on your income.
“The Government will credit this into your CPF account, on top of the usual employer and employee contributions.
“You will receive this “Earn and Save” bonus yearly, as long as you are working, whether full-time or part-time.
“Take, for example, a lower-income 55-year-old who plans to retire at 65.
“Over ten years, her Earn and Save bonus adds up to $12,000 in extra CPF savings if you include the CPF interest, which is not bad,” he projected.
Minister Tan added: “If you want to retire early, if you have the option to retire early, we’re not telling you (that) you should not retire.
“But the key thing is to empower you… with the option that should you want to continue working because of your experiential wisdom, we want to be there to support you.
“What we want to do is to put a positive momentum to it, and that is because we are going to become a ‘super-aged’ society.”
Apart from younger seniors, PM Lee shared how the Singapore government also wants to encourage older seniors to continue working, and as such, the Majulah Package also covers the Pioneer (PG) and Merdeka Generations (MG), which refers to Singaporeans aged 16 in 1965, or born from 1 July 1950 to 31 December 1959.
He concluded: “Let me say to you: if you are PG and MG, and if you are still working and meet the income criteria, you too will receive the Earn and Save Bonus as long as you are working.
“This will be in addition to the PG or MG benefits that you are already receiving and will continue to receive. Think of this as a 58th National Day present!”