Wholesale trade has 'good growth potential'

Wholesale and retail trade made up a 14.2 per cent share of Singapore's gross domestic product in 2016.
Wholesale and retail trade made up a 14.2 per cent share of Singapore's gross domestic product in 2016.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Despite challenges from increased digitalisation, the wholesale trade industry still has good growth potential, thanks to rising consumerism in Asia and Singapore's robust trading ecosystem.

That is the view from labour MP and NTUC assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay, who noted yesterday that the sector "shows great potential for jobs covering a diverse range of opportunities for working people from different disciplines and industries".

Much of his optimism stems from a government decision in July to boost job training in wholesale trade - a sector which mainly covers the business-to-business trading of goods such as agricultural materials, machinery and merchandise.

It was one of five industries deemed at risk from disruptive technology.

The move could create about 10,000 openings in wholesale trade by 2020, on top of the more than 325,000 people employed now.

It is expected that as work processes become more heavily digitalised, manual jobs and routine tasks will be replaced by higher-value positions.

The skills that will be in demand include familiarity with data analytics, e-commerce, pricing strategies and trade financing instruments, representatives from unionised wholesale trade companies anticipate.

Mr Tay, who is director of NTUC's Future Jobs, Skills and Training Department, wrote on the National Trades Union Congress' LabourBeat blog: "The outlook of the sector is positive and I am excited about (its) future."

He also said in his post that the Republic is "in good stead to leverage on our strengths".

Mr Tay, who is also a member of the Wholesale Trade Industry Tripartite Committee, added: "In an increasingly digitalised world, we will also need to digitalise trade in Singapore to enhance our global trade connectivity and gain a foothold in the future of global trading."

His comments come ahead of tomorrow's Wholesale Trade Industry Transformation Map launch, where Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran will announce plans to transform the sector. The drive is spearheaded by government agency IE Singapore.

Wholesale and retail trade made up 14.2 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product last year.

Overall domestic wholesale trade saw a year-on-year increase of 7.3 per cent, adjusted for price changes, during the three months from April to June this year.

Meanwhile, overall foreign wholesale trade rose by 1.5 per cent year on year in the same period, again adjusted for price changes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2017, with the headline 'Wholesale trade has 'good growth potential''. Print Edition | Subscribe