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5 minute read

Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower’s Gameplan to Boost Local Workers’ Career Prospects in 2024

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng shared new plans to ensure that local workers are well-supported through this year’s tough economic environment.

Career opportunities in 2024 for Singaporeans

With inflation and a challenging geopolitical environment likely weighing down the Singapore economy in 2024, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng shared the latest on how the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Singapore government will help local workers and jobseekers cope.

Speaking in a special New Year podcast interview with the The Straits Times, he spoke on some key plans that the Singapore government will be looking at to boost Singaporean worker’s career opportunities and prospects this year. Here are some of the key highlights that he shared below.

Looking back at 2023

Minister Tan: Firstly, if we look back what we’ve done in terms of uplifting our low wage workers, the rollout of the progressive which model including the rollout of the Progressive Wage (PW) Mark which we have been able to reach around 9 out of ten low wage workers to uplift their salaries was significant.

(The Progressive Wage (PW) Mark accreditation recognises firms that pay progressive wages to lower-wage workers. It enables consumers and corporate buyers to easily identify and support such firms.)

And if we look at the end results, we have been able to achieve, over the same period of time, a real (wage) increase in the bottom 20%. And for this bottom 20%, their annual wage increase actually outpaces the wage increases of the median.

So, we hope that in time we can continue to narrow the gap, and we’ve got very good traction in terms of achieving those end goals.

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Secondly, there was a pretty bold move in the implementation of COMPASS.

(COMPASS is a points-based system that gives businesses greater clarity and certainty for manpower planning. It enables employers to select high-quality foreign professionals, while improving workforce diversity and building a strong local core.)

In one fell swoop on the 1st of September 2023, we put in place a very clear, very transparent framework upon which companies can onboard foreign talent, ensuring they are complimentary to the development of our local talents, so that our local talent do not feel disenfranchised, nor in any way feel that they are being taken advantage of.

We also provide assurance to many small medium enterprises (SME’s), particularly in the food services, as well as the manufacturing industry, where there are certain jobs that Singaporeans don’t want to do, or where they require a more artisanal, creative or artistic element.

The third highlight for 2023 was how we tried to ensure the job market remained fair and protected our own locals. Currently, I think more than 90% of our plans for legislation on workplace fairness is done, and this will then provide your assurance to our young seniors to our elderly population, that if they want to continue to work, age will not be a discriminating factor.

People with disabilities, people with caregiving responsibilities, they will not be discriminated against. And on top of that, of course, we also wanted to make sure that our gig and platform workers have better protections, whether it is in the form of health care or medical insurance, to retirement adequacy. Those are the broad initiatives that we’ve done for 2023.

How Workforce Singapore’s (WSG) CareersFinder will help Singaporean workers and jobseekers in 2024

We want to make sure that tools are available for every individual Singaporean to take responsibility for his or her own career progression, which can also be called ‘career health’.

Beyond just updating bio data and resumes (which unfortunately most of us don’t do regularly), CareersFinder will act as a career portal that’s available to Singaporean workers.

It acts as an interactive platform to tell Singaporean workers where they are, where the world and job market is going to be moving over the next five to 10 years, and what are the skill gaps that they might have.

It will then advise on the subsidised skills courses that’s available that local workers and jobseekers can go on to take, which ensures a better career match with future hiring companies.

Our message for every single Singapore citizen is: It’s better that we take advantage of such platforms. Take ownership of our own career health, and MOM will continue to help with nudges every step of the way.

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Should Singaporeans be worried about globalisation and digitalisation and how it will affect their jobs and careers?

No Singaporean should ever feel that he or she would be disadvantaged by foreign workers.

I mean, we’re an open economy. Whether we like it or we don’t, competition will come, right?

But at the end of the day, the best defence is actually going on the offence, taking the initiative and getting the best training and skill sets so we can surmount career challenges that may come.

And for those who may not have the inkling to go into a more cerebral type of head work, but more the heart and the hands-on roles (such as PMET vs non-PMET jobs), we also want to develop them along that path to give them more career and job opportunities, to ensure their jobs can’t be easily displaced.

What are the career prospects and longevity for older Singaporean workers in 2024?

Speaking for my age group, those who are born from about 1960 to 1973: we’re not close to retirement yet, in fact we’ve still got a good career runway.

In fact, those who are currently around 50 can continue to have careers for another 15 to even 20 years!

What we want to do is to make sure that they continue to have that longevity. As long as they work, there will continue to be a matching of CPF contributions so that by the time they decide to retire at 65, they will have financial adequacy in terms of retirement funds.

We will also be announcing 2024 plans on how we’re going to enhance Singapore’s retirement saving schemes and how we’re going to reinforce and upgrade the Silver Support Scheme and enhance Workfare so that no Singaporean will be left behind.

(The Silver Support Scheme provides additional support for elderly Singaporeans who had low incomes during their working years and now have less in their retirement.

The Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) scheme encourages eligible workers to work and build up their CPF savings by providing them with cash payments and additional CPF contributions.)

Is 2024 going to be moving away from the Great Resignation, and what will the dynamic between employers, workers and jobseekers be like?

I think for companies that are engaged in building long-term sustainable enterprises will continue to invest in Singaporeans.

Of course, on the other hand, there are also very transactional types of industries and sectors. But for the overwhelming majority of companies will choose to invest in their workers and their operating processes. Ultimately longevity and sustainability will help these companies do better in the long run.

Realistically, in my prior experience running a healthcare enterprise, workers will leave for other opportunities, but they do return.

And they are richer for it because of the exposure they get externally, with a fresh infusion of ideas. So, in that sense, depending on the sector, most of our sectors are still about building ecosystems and sustainable longevity.

When it comes to global trends, like quiet quitting, lying flat, the great resignation/reshuffle and so on, my view is this: we’re human beings. We go through phases. We choose, at different times in our lives, different things, which I think are phases that we all go through.

My personal advice to everyone for times when feeling worn out is to take a break, or better yet, get some good sleep!

The next morning, when you wake, it’ll be a brand new day, and you’ll be able to think clearly and be able to make better choices. And before you know it, three decades would have come and gone, which is what has happened to me! I think sleep is the most important aspect in preserving mental fortitude and resilience.

In conclusion: yes, we are amid geopolitical upheavals and inflation, but the Singapore government will never leave you alone to fend for yourself.

We may not have all the solutions, and we’re certainly not only omnipotent, but many of us (in government) will die trying to make things better for local workers and citizens, so stay optimistic!

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