Forum: Cleaning firms must innovate and upgrade workforce

An elderly cleaner mops the floor at Wheelock Place on April 29, 2020. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The Public Hygiene Council (PHC) has long stressed the need to reduce the cleaning industry's dependence on manual labour (Pandemic spurs transformation in cleaning industry here, Aug 17).

Singapore's army of 59,000 cleaners - comprising low-skilled, elderly Singaporeans and foreign workers - is simply not sustainable. It is why it heartens us that firms in the industry are taking steps to raise their efficiency and productivity by adopting more cleaning technology, such as robotic floor sweepers.

The PHC has engaged leaders of the Environmental Management Association of Singapore and heads of major cleaning companies in direct dialogue to help push the transformation of the industry.

We have strongly encouraged cleaning companies to take full advantage of the Government's Environmental Services Productivity Solutions Grant.

We believe the industry must not only innovate but also train its workforce and offer better salaries to match its improved skills and productivity. Various managerial, supervisory and specialist roles could also be created as cleaning operations become more sophisticated.

The PHC's vision is a cleaning workforce that commands the respect of society and faces no stigma. We want to see career and professional development opportunities within the industry that attract citizens and young people as well.

While the cleaning industry transforms itself, the public must continue to practise good personal hygiene habits, such as washing their hands regularly, clearing their table at public eating places, throwing their trash into the bins, and keeping public toilets dry and clean.

It is ultimately up to all of us to help keep Singapore clean and safe.

Edward D'Silva

Chairman, Public Hygiene Council

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2020, with the headline Forum: Cleaning firms must innovate and upgrade workforce. Subscribe