SINGAPORE: Restructuring for higher productivity will be a painful process but companies here cannot proceed with business as usual, says Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin.
Speaking in Parliament during his ministry's estimates, he said an over-riding consideration in shaping the country's manpower policies is - does it on balance benefit Singaporeans and Singapore?
He said the government's strategy is to create better jobs and raise incomes by upgrading the workforce and supporting restructuring.
On foreign manpower, Mr Tan said tightening measures have taken effect, with Singapore's foreign manpower growth rate at its slowest in five years.
The government is now doing more to raise the quality of Singapore's foreign workforce.
For example, construction firms may be required to have a minimum level of "Higher Skilled" (or R1) workers.
An industry consultation with the Ministry of National Development and Building and Construction Authority is already underway for this.
Mr Tan said these measures will mean that firms that are more reliant on new, inexperienced workers, or who choose to constantly churn foreign workers, will be subjected to higher levy bills.
Conversely, firms that rely more on experienced, higher quality workers, will be less affected.
Mr Tan said: "Given Singapore's small physical size, we will need to grow within the constraints that we have. This explains why we need to tighten foreign manpower access at all levels.
"And here, there is yet another balancing effort to be struck... maintaining our competitiveness and this need to moderate growth in our labour force. Again, we need to ensure that whatever the trade-offs, the net effect is positive for our people and society."
He also gave an update on the implementation of the Fair Consideration Framework.
From August, firms must advertise their vacancies in a Jobs Bank for at least 14 days, before hiring skilled professional foreigners on Employment Passes.
Mr Tan said the government has already identified more than 50 employers that may have "scope to improve their hiring and career development practices".
These are firms with a disproportionately low share of Singaporeans within the PME levels in their industry.
Mr Tan said: "Firms with shortcomings in their HR practices will be required to implement an action plan to address these shortcomings. In some cases, the issue may not be a problem with their HR practices, but rather a gap in the skills that are available in the local workforce.
"We will work closely with the industry, to explore ways to support more manpower-lean business models, or develop a local pipeline of workers with the relevant skills and experience."
The new Jobs Bank will be launched in the middle of the year.
Mr Tan said the Workforce Development Agency is in the process of engaging groups of employers and potential job seekers, to test the beta version of the Jobs Bank.
"As with any new platform, it will not be perfect and users will take some time to become familiar with it. We will refine and improve the Jobs Bank, as we gain more experience and feedback from Singaporeans and employers." he said. - CNA/de
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