Four manpower priorities for Singapore: Lim Swee Say

After spending his first month on the job meeting employer groups, business chambers and trade associations, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say says on Tuesday that he has been able to get their agreement to work towards four priority outcomes. -- ST PHO
After spending his first month on the job meeting employer groups, business chambers and trade associations, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say says on Tuesday that he has been able to get their agreement to work towards four priority outcomes. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG 

SINGAPORE - After spending his first month on the job meeting employer groups, business chambers and trade associations, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said on Tuesday that he has been able to get their agreement to work towards four priority outcomes.

These are: becoming more manpower lean, building a strong Singaporean core, ensuring the foreign workforce is of good quality and maintaining Singapore's competitiveness.

Speaking to the media for the first time since he moved from the labour unions to be Manpower Minister, Mr Lim said that this will help to ensure that manpower constraints do not become the limiting factor for Singapore's economic growth.

"I think at the back of the mind is that given the constraints (businesses) face with manpower, how are they going to be able to respond to external competition...I requested they work together to think and look beyond the considerations of today," he said at the Manpower Ministry headquarters. He took up his current post on May 4.

Action must take place at the industry and sub-industry levels, he added. "We don't have to wait until everybody agrees to start. All it takes is three companies, five companies, seven companies that are prepared to take the lead."

Mr Lim also said that he has been explaining to business leaders who have asked whether they will be able to employ more foreign workers that the ministry cannot afford to adopt a more liberal policy.

"If we continue to do so, the ratio of local workers versus foreign manpower will continue to decline...One day Singaporeans will wake up to find ourselves as a minority in our Singapore workforce, and obviously that's not sustainable, that's not desirable," he said.

Other areas such as the national jobs bank will be reviewed, and more details are expected in around a month's time, he said.

Continuing his push for a three-way partnership between unions, employers and the government, Mr Lim, who was labour chief for eight years, said that his actions would show his commitment to finding solutions that benefit all three - encouraging good business, good careers and good economic growth.