Job market

Forum: Milk the skills PMETs have accumulated

People waiting to cross the street at Raffles Quay on Sep 28, 2020.
People waiting to cross the street at Raffles Quay on Sep 28, 2020.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam laid out clearly the trend towards a polarised job market - with more jobs being created at the high-and low-skilled ends of the labour market and fewer in the middle, and the growth of an insecure gig workforce (The global jobs crisis and why we should think longer term, Oct 31).

As a result of this trend, there exists a growing pool of unemployed professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) who are in danger of losing the value of the skills they have accumulated. And the longer it takes for them to secure a new job, the greater the risk that the human capital they have accumulated will be lost, and Singapore would be worse off.

What are some of these skills that PMETs in Singapore have accumulated?

First, since the first multinational corporations such as Fairchild and Texas Instruments built their factories in Singapore in the late 1960s, Singaporeans have been running these factories on their behalf.

Second, foreign investors have often used Singapore as a regional base. Singaporeans have been running these regional offices, dealing with the diverse cultures across Asia, on their behalf.

Third, Singapore is a great trading hub. Singaporeans have been engaged in trading even before the nation's independence.

Three things can be done now to harness these skills.

First, send PMETs who know how to build and run factories to countries where we have invested in industrial parks. We should go beyond building industrial parks to building and running factories.

Second, set up offices in various overseas markets, and hire our PMETs to run these offices to represent our small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and secure business on their behalf. It is not realistic to ask SMEs to internationalise on their own, given their limited resources.

Third, send experienced Singaporeans to scour the earth for commodities to trade.

Liu Fook Thim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2020, with the headline 'Milk the skills PMETs have accumulated'. Subscribe