Forum: Annual SkillsFuture Credit top-ups, paid leave for courses would boost lifelong learning

I refer to the deal brokered at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development to implement rules that would make multinational companies pay an effective rate of "at least 15 per cent" and give smaller countries more tax revenue from foreign firms (130 nations, jurisdictions back 15% global minimum corporate tax, July 2).

I agree with The Straits Times' editorial that non-tax factors will be key in future to attract foreign direct investments (Non-tax incentives will be key in future, July 9).

Singapore is a small dot on the world map and is not endowed with any natural resources. The only resource that Singapore has is its people and workforce.

To build a more relevant and educated workforce to attract investments. I propose the following ideas:

First, Singapore should top up the SkillsFuture credits of all working Singaporeans annually instead of doing ad hoc top-ups. This would signify that learning does not stop when entering the workforce from school and that learning is a lifelong process instead of being one-off endeavours.

These credits should also not have an expiry date. The one-off $500 SkillsFuture Credit top-up which every Singaporean aged 25 and older received last year should not expire on Dec 31, 2025.

Second, Singapore should legislate into the Employment Act the mandatory provision of leave for employees to attend courses, for those who take up the call for lifelong reskilling and upskilling.

Employees usually have to use their own annual leave to attend courses and take examinations. This may deter employees from upgrading themselves.

Having paid leave to reskill and upskill themselves would encourage individuals to take ownership of their skills development and lifelong learning instead of leaving it in the hands of their employers, who may be more focused on the company's immediate bottom line.

The tax deal could be implemented as soon as 2023. It is crucial for Singapore to look into revamping its approach towards lifelong learning to stay competitive and attractive to foreign investors.

Benjamin Ng C.K.

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