Measures in place to help workers ride out slowdown

Labour chief Chan Chun Sing, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, at NTUC's U Future Leaders Summit held at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre yesterday.
Labour chief Chan Chun Sing, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, at NTUC's U Future Leaders Summit held at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre yesterday.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Labour chief says Govt is keeping close watch on economy and will do more to help if needed

Labour chief Chan Chun Sing yesterday assured workers anxious about a possible technical recession that the Government is keeping a close watch on the economy and will not hesitate to do more to help if needed.

Measures are also in place for Singapore to ride out the global economic slowdown, said Mr Chan, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

His comments to reporters at an event for local professionals, managers and executives came a day after official reports showed non-oil domestic exports slid 12 per cent last month against a year ago.

This slide is a continuation of a decline already seen in the preliminary economic figures released last month. They showed the economy contracting 4.1 per cent in the July- September period against the April-June period.

The contraction led some economists to warn that Singapore could be heading for a technical recession, which is defined as two consecutive quarters of decline in economic output.

Mr Chan, when asked what would be the Government's response to such a recession, said: "It is still early days. We are watching the numbers very closely."

  • 3-PRONGED STRATEGY TO TACKLE SLOWDOWN

  • 1 Stay conducive for business while keeping a tight ship by being disciplined in fiscal spending.

    2 Enable businesses to expand into regional and world markets.

    3 Help workers develop skills relevant to a changing job market, and match those out of work to new jobs as soon as possible.

He also said the situation today is different from the 2008-2009 recession when the slump was felt across all sectors.

In 2009, the economy shrank by 2 per cent, with its main pillars such as the services sector declining 2.2 per cent and manufacturing, 4.1 per cent.

But today, the sluggish growth is not across the board.

In the services sector, information and communications, education, health and social services industries remain resilient, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Those hit hard are in trade, such as the oil and gas, and shipping industries.

Employment, however, has fallen for the second time since the 2009 global financial crisis. Early figures show there were 3,300 fewer workers holding jobs between July and September this year.

To combat the uneven impact of the global slowdown, Mr Chan said the Government has already taken steps to help the affected industries and workers.

For instance, it has rolled out specially tailored plans to transform industries, and schemes to train and help workers stay relevant in the workplace.

Mr Chan stressed that the Government takes a targeted approach in helping industries and workers, rather than having "broad generic measures" which may not be as effective.

But, he said: "If we need to do more, we will do more in the coming months."

Meanwhile, Singaporeans need to view the latest economic figures with a long-term perspective, he said. Short-term fluctuations of such figures are inevitable.

What is important are the conditions needed for Singapore to ride out the slowdown and prepare for the future, he added.

Singapore has a three-pronged strategy for this, he said.

First, stay conducive for business while keeping a tight ship by being disciplined in fiscal spending.

Second, enable businesses to expand into regional and world markets. Plans for achieving this will be in a report by the Committee on the Future Economy that will be out in the first quarter of next year. The committee, of which Mr Chan is deputy chairman, will identify key areas of growth.

Third, help workers develop skills relevant to a changing job market, and match those out of work to new jobs as soon as possible.

Said Mr Chan: "The long-term fundamentals will determine whether we get out of this situation in a better shape."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2016, with the headline 'Measures in place to help workers ride out slowdown'. Print Edition | Subscribe