SINGAPORE - Unemployment will rise significantly over the next year and even beyond if the issue of jobs is left to market forces.
That is why the Government is working with the private sector to get Singaporeans hired through temporary assignments, attachments and traineeships now, said Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Wednesday (June 17).
This way, people can get real work opportunities and get paid. They can also pick up skills while waiting for permanent jobs to open up.
The reality, Mr Tharman said, is that Singapore now faces strong headwinds. As long as grave uncertainty hangs over the global economy and trade and travel remain disrupted, job losses here are likely to outweigh job openings.
He said: "So, if we leave things to market forces, unemployment will rise significantly over the next year, or even beyond that if Covid-19 remains a threat."
Singapore has been preparing for this, but the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for changes, Mr Tharman said. "When we talk of the jobs of the future, therefore, it is not some far-off or hypothetical possibility. The future begins now."
That is why the Government is investing heavily in reskilling and upskilling the majority of Singaporeans who still have jobs, and has also expanded training opportunities through the Next Bound of SkillsFuture.
Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Social Policies and chairs the National Jobs Council, said: "The Government is heavily subsidising these opportunities. It gives people far greater benefit when Government provides support this way.
"No amount of unemployment allowances can compensate for the demoralisation of being out of work for long," he added.
For a start, the public sector will bring forward hiring for future jobs in areas such as healthcare, early childhood development, education and social services, he added. It will also step up recruitment in sectors which had earlier faced issues with getting enough Singaporeans to sign up.
Speaking in a TV broadcast on Wednesday - the fifth of six speeches on Singapore's post-coronavirus future - Mr Tharman said the Government's first priority is to save jobs, and that this is not just an economic issue, but a social one.
He said: "We will do all we can to prevent people from being out of work for long, so they can stand on their own feet and retain their sense of dignity.
"Good jobs are also at the heart of our whole approach to building a cohesive society and tempering inequalities."
Technological advances and the digital revolution, Mr Tharman said, have transformed many jobs.
He urged Singaporeans to take on the challenge of learning new skills. "Everyone should have the courage to re-gear to stay on track, and make the effort to acquire new skills at regular points in your careers, possibly even learning whole new disciplines."