SINGAPORE: Singapore’s workforce is expected to grow at a pace of about two per cent or below per year in future.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and NTUC’s Secretary—General, Lim Swee Say, said the current growth rate of about four per cent per year will not be sustainable for the longer term.
This, with the tightening of the foreign worker policy and efforts by the government to encourage companies to improve productivity through innovation and skills upgrading programmes.
Mr Lim said these a day after the Manpower Ministry released the third quarter employment situation for Singapore which showed job growth slowing.
The NTUC chief once again echoed a point which ministers have been stressing recently, that there will be no u—turn on the government’s policy to tighten the entry of foreign workers into the workforce.
Mr Lim said: "If you look at Singapore on the whole, we have no choice but to slowdown on our workforce growth, because if we were to continue growing at four per cent a year, like what we did in the last five to ten years, from an economic angle, eventually, the Singapore economy will run out of steam.
"If we do not upgrade the skills and productivity, eventually, we will lose our competitiveness. More importantly from the social angle, Singapore will become overly crowded.
"So to the SMEs out there my message to them is instead of being succumb by this pressure with the policy change why don’t we work together. There are many ways to upgrade the skills or workers, to upgrade productivity and hasten the pace of innovation. At the end of the day, those who are able to respond faster, they will be able to grow even better in the new scenario"
He explained that the slowdown in job growth in Singapore can be attributed to two factors.
The first is cyclical, given the present uncertainty in the global economy.
He said exports have softened all over the world and as a result, employment and hiring have slowed down.
The second reason and more importantly is that workers are seeing a structural shift in Singapore’s manpower policy with a slowdown in the increase in the number of foreign workers.
Mr Lim said: "What this means is that in the future we could see a slower pace of job growth through this policy design. Our challenge is that to make sure that the slower growth in the workforce does not turn turn into higher structural unemployment, slower wage increase and slower economic growth.
"On the opposite what we are trying to do as tripartite partners, we are trying to upgrade skills to minimise structural unemployment, we are trying to upgrade productivity to sustain our economic growth and more importantly to ensure that workers of Singapore become more skillful and become more productive, hopefully we will be able to sustain our real wage increase.
"Therefore our focus today and in the years to come will be in terms of how can we value every worker, make better use of every worker.
"And making better use of every worker does not mean asking every worker to work harder or longer hours, but ... more in terms of how we can help every worker make their job easier through the better use of technology, through process designs as well as taking better care of them."
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