600 SMEs on govt scheme to become leaner

More than 600 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are on a government scheme to become leaner and more productive since the pilot project started in October last year, and the Manpower Ministry wants the number doubled before the year ends.

Speaking to the media at an industry event yesterday, Minister of State (Manpower) Teo Ser Luck said the Lean Enterprise Development scheme was "progressing really well". He said the ministry had been receiving an increasing number of applications and, to cope with the growing numbers, more consultants and solution providers would be approved to help companies make the transition.

"The technology (sector)... will be providing platform solutions that all SMEs can tap," Mr Teo noted. Firms which had pledged their dedication to weather the storm of slowing workforce growth come from all sectors, especially the labour-intensive services sector, he added.

At the same event, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say painted a gloomy picture of how workforce growth would decline in the next five years as he urged more firms to think of ways to shed flab.

"If we were to continue life as normal, as we did over the past five years... we are going to see a very severe shortage of manpower," he said. Therefore, the ministry is "very determined to spread the mindset (to become leaner and more productive) because there is no other way out for Singapore", he noted.

A manpower-lean economy would compensate for slowing workforce growth through productivity gains. "We are working very closely together, across ministries, towards this direction," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2016, with the headline '600 SMEs on govt scheme to become leaner'. Print Edition | Subscribe