Budget 2016: Poll finds job security a big worry among Singaporeans

Office workers in the Central Business District of Singapore.
Office workers in the Central Business District of Singapore.PHOTO: ST FILE

Fears over slowing economy rising as labour market shows signs of weakness

Singaporeans are most worried about job security amid the slowing economy, a new government feedback exercise has found, ahead of the Budget to be delivered on Thursday.

The poll by Reach, the government feedback unit, found that Singaporeans were worried about the slowdown in the economy and whether this would mean poorer job prospects for them here.

Rising fears over a slowing economy come as the labour market has started to show signs of weakness.

 

Last year, more workers lost their jobs amid weaker economic conditions. A total of 15,580 workers were laid off in 2015, the fifth consecutive year of rising redundancies, according to data from the Manpower Ministry.

The economy is expected to grow by between 1 per cent and 3 per cent this year, with economists expecting the slowdown to hit companies hard.

Respondents to the exercise, which saw Reach collect some 3,600 forms of input, also wanted the Government to take a closer look at older workers.

About 86 per cent of the feedback was given directly or face-to-face to Reach. The rest was delivered through online channels.

Middle-aged workers also wanted new schemes to help workers affected by the slowdown to learn new skills and move into fresh industries.

Older workers were also worried about their income stagnating, even as job opportunities waned, noted Reach.

With one eye on the Budget, respondents suggested implementing measures aimed at helping companies tide over the fall in business prospects.

Some wanted more generous tax reliefs, while others suggested cuts in the goods and services tax, property tax and fuel tax.

Reach chairman Sam Tan said he was happy to see Singaporeans coming forward to share their views directly with the Government.

"We hear Singaporeans' concerns about the slowing down of the economy, employability as well as the lack of job security," said Mr Tan.

"The Government will continue to equip Singaporeans with the right skills to stay relevant in a fast changing world, so that they can secure better jobs and better pay."

For baker Samson Lee, 43, keeping his job is his top priority.

Mr Lee, who works in a bakery in Yishun, said that with companies considering automation, he fears his skills as a baker will become redundant.

"The Government says we have to learn new things and get a new job. But it is hard to go for training when I have teenagers to feed and send to school. Where am I to find the time?" he said.

The Budget will be delivered by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Thursday from 3.30pm.

It will be broadcast live on television and radio. Those planning to watch it online can do so on the official Singapore Budget website or through the mobile application.

• Follow The Straits Times' coverage of the Budget at http://str.sg/budget2016

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2016, with the headline 'Poll finds job security a big worry among S'poreans'. Print Edition | Subscribe