A recent study of 9,000 professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) between the ages of 20 and 60 has revealed profound economic anxieties among them, particularly among mature PMEs who are aged above 40. They face heavier financial commitments because they often have to provide for school-going children while also caring for elderly parents. They typically also take a longer time to find a new job and might experience a pay cut when they re-enter the labour market or a new industry. While the coronavirus pandemic has affected workers across the economic spectrum and, indeed, has visited a degree of economic desperation on many, the plight of PMEs demands particular attention because they lie at the cutting edge of Singapore's need to graduate from a low-skills and low-wage economy to one in which higher levels of education can sustain national growth and the creation of white-collar jobs. If even this segment of workers is hurting so badly, as the study would suggest, their plight deserves urgent national attention.
The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has called for that attention to take the form of concrete financial help while PMEs are in the midst of involuntary transition to new jobs. The labour movement is supportive of monetary help - going beyond current grants - being given to PMEs who have lost their jobs. Rightly, the NTUC has highlighted the need for more employment and training opportunities so that PMEs do not lose the professional threshold they have gained in a modernising economy and the confidence in their ability to contribute to its evolution even in the new normal marked by Covid-19.